Sensing infection, suppressing regeneration

In a new study published in Immunity, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers, led by Asrar Malik, University of Illinois Cancer Center member, describe how the body’s response to inflammation, which helps to fight many kinds of infections, also can counterproductively suppress much-needed cell repair and regeneration in blood vessels.

The researchers describe an enzyme that blocks the ability of blood vessel cells to self-heal. By studying mice with sepsis – a condition caused when the body’s inflammatory response to a bloodstream bacterial infection spirals out of control – they found that removal of the enzyme allows cells to fully regenerate.

“When cells are faced with an injury or an infection, it seems that they make a ‘fight’ or ‘fix’ choice,” said Malik, PhD, Schweppe Family Distinguished Professor and head of pharmacology at the College of Medicine. “Inflammation is the ‘fight’ response, and the cells appear to delay regeneration while amplifying the inflammatory response.”

The work is germane to cancer, as underlying inflammation is fundamental to the development and progression of the disease, Malik said.

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