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Researchers closer to development of drug to prevent deadly immune response
Date:8/26/2010

NORFOLK, VA Researchers have isolated a molecule, small enough to be used as a drug, that can shut down a dysfunctional immune response that causes deadly hemorrhagic shock, results in delayed death of heart attack patients, promotes rejection of transplanted organs and destroys joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a paper published in Molecular Immunology.

The molecule, a modified peptide, was extracted from the relatively huge protein shell of a common virus that is a frequent cause of childhood diarrhea, according to the research conducted by a team at Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.

The discovery marks a quantum leap toward clinical application by creating a powerful effect with a molecule small enough to be used in medications.

"This puts us in a position to move rapidly from in-vitro testing to in-vivo testing," says Neel Krishna, PhD, an assistant professor of microbiology and molecular cell biology at EVMS and a pediatric virologist at CHKD.

The publication comes almost five years after Dr. Krishna and Kenji Cunnion, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at EVMS and an infectious disease specialist with Children's Specialty Group at CHKD, inserted a shell of a virus that causes childhood diarrhea into a Petri dish primed to measure the response of a primordial component of the human immune response known as the complement system.

The complement reaction completely stopped.

"Being able to pharmacologically modulate the complement system could have a huge impact on the practice of medicine, potentially saving the lives of victims of hemorrhagic shock, heart attack patients, and even infants who have suffered prolonged hypoxia," says Dr. Krishna. "It could also have a significant impact on treating a wide range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases."

The complement system is one of the oldest surviving remnants of the earliest life forms and exists in
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Contact: Doug Gardner
gardneda@evms.edu
757-446-6073
Eastern Virginia Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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