The ability to reduce or “switch off” inflammation may be possible thanks to a new discovery made by researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. They found that a protein called SCIMP triggers inflammation, so targeting this protein may hold potential for new treatments in diseases caused by inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The study, “SCIMP is a transmembrane non-TIR TLR adaptor that promotes proinflammatory cytokine production from macrophages,” was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Uncontrolled inflammation contributes to the progression of many diseases, including RA, inflammatory bowel disease, sepsis, fatty liver disease, asthma, and other inflammation-related disorders.
“Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting us against infection, but uncontrolled inflammation drives disease and causes pain and loss of function for patients,” Prof. Jennifer Stow, a researcher at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) and the study’s lead author, said in a news release.
Cells of the innate immune system such as macrophages (white blood cells that engulf and digest foreign and non-healthy substances, such as microbes and cancer cells), use several families of pattern recognition receptors to detect and respond to danger signals presented during infection, injury, and/or disturbances in normal human physiology.
Stow and her colleagues discovered that the SCIMP protein binds to pathogen receptors, driving the production of two inflammatory cytokines secreted by macrophages — IL-6 and IL-12p40.
Targeting SCIMP could reduce inflammation and lead to the development of new therapeutic options for patients with inflammatory diseases.
“SCIMP is the first protein of its kind to be discovered that binds directly to the pathogen receptors on immune cells that trigger inflammatory responses,” Stow said. “This makes SCIMP a valuable new drug target with the potential to reduce or ‘switch off’ selected inflammatory responses.
“SCIMP-based drugs might also have fewer side effects and would potentially be an option for more than half of the patients with inflammatory diseases who find little or no relief from current treatments,” she added.
The team’s goal is to develop innovative new approaches to monitor the progression from protective to pathological inflammation, which may ultimately lead to the treatment and prevention of the underlying causes of many inflammation-related diseases.