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Have researchers found a new treatment for sepsis?
Date:12/3/2013

Sepsis, or septicaemia, is a devastating disease that is difficult to diagnose early and for which treatment options are limited. The number of deaths from sepsis exceeds those from lung cancer, and from breast and bowel cancer combined.

Sepsis can affect any age group and is the leading cause of death in Intensive Care: it is estimated that 37,000 people die from severe sepsis in the UK each year with annual NHS costs exceeding 1.5billion.

Sepsis has until recently been under-recognised and despite advances in understanding the biological processes involved, there is still no effective treatment beyond supportive therapy.

Professor David Lambert and Dr Jonathan Thompson of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester have published two collaborative research papers indicating that a newly discovered receptor in the body similar to the receptors for endorphins or for morphine - might be important in the body's response to sepsis, which could be the key to unlocking a new treatment in the future.

This new receptor is called the 'nociceptin receptor' and the natural substance that activates it is called nociceptin.

The body's initial response to sepsis is to produce an intense reaction from the immune system to fight the infection. This first involves activation of white blood cells, stress hormones and other substances, known as 'inflammatory mediators', which cause inflammation.

It has already been found that nociceptin is involved in inflammation; it affects how white blood cells work. This suggests strongly that nociceptin has an important role in the body's response to inflammation and sepsis. Their theory, which they have explored in both research papers, is that nociceptin makes inflammation or sepsis worse; by blocking the nociceptin system, the symptoms of sepsis could be reduced, which could lead to new treatments.

In the first of the two papers Professor L
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Contact: Dr. Jonathan Thompson
jt23@le.ac.uk
01-162-523-132
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert

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