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Immune system kill switch could be target for chemotherapy and infection recovery
Date:12/6/2012

every few minutes worldwide. "Sepsis is the leading cause of death in critically ill patients, leading to shock, organ failure and death," Dr Croker said. "People with sepsis have very low numbers of immune cells in the blood and the ability of the immune system to recover and immune cells to repopulate the body is strongly linked to the patient's chance of survival," he said.

Most research has focused on the 'cytokine storm' theory of sepsis, which says that an excess of inflammatory signals sent out by immune cells cause the severe symptoms in patients. However Dr Croker said all the clinical trials based on this theory have failed. "Our research provides a different view of the disease, one in which the death of blood stem cells leaves the patient unable to repopulate their red and white blood cells, and therefore unable to recover," he said.

Dr Masters said the research could, in the future, lead to treatments for sepsis. "Therapies for sepsis are non-existent at the moment," Dr Masters said "We are really still just treating the infection, in a situation where most people die not from the infection, but from the body's immune response to it."

The research team is involved in testing inhibitors of this pathway to treat severe infections, and have high hopes for its future use. "It is early days, but we are optimistic that this is a pathway that could help to prevent blood cell death and treat severe cases of sepsis, as well as other conditions where blood stem cells are critically depleted, such as during chemotherapy," he said.


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Contact: Liz Williams
williams@wehi.edu.au
61-405-279-095
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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