Protein involved in slowing the progression of emphysema identified!

Protein involved in slowing the progression of emphysema identified!

A protein generated as part of our body's immune response to intestinal worms could slow the progression of emphysema, according to a new study published in Cell Reports.

Past studies have shown that harmful inflammation associated with activated immune cells can contribute to the development of emphysema, a chronic lung disease that causes shortness of breath. Currently, there is no cure, but there are treatments to manage the disease.

The study suggests that a protein, RELM-alpha, produced in response to an infection with parasitic worms can suppress the harmful inflammation linked to emphysema and control its progression.

"When the parasite first enters the lungs, it induces production of the inflammatory cytokine IL-17, which can cause emphysema," said lead author. "But subsequently the parasite also triggers this specific component of the immune response that can reduce the IL-17 and thereby limit the severity of the emphysema."

Authors show that the lung B cells, activated through IL-4R signaling, inhibited early onset of emphysematous pathology. IL-10 and other regulatory cytokines typically associated with B regulatory cell function did not play a major role in this response. Instead, at early stages of the response, B cells produced high levels of the tissue-protective protein, Resistin-like molecule a (RELMa), which then downregulated IL17A expression.

Future studies will examine whether direct administration of this molecule can reduce the severity of emphysema and also how harmful inflammation driven by IL-17 results in the immune-mediated tissue damage that contributes to this lung disorder.

"Harmful inflammation is such a serious problem in disease," the lead author said. "This protein produced by immune cells during parasitic worm infections reveals the complexity of the immune response and indicates how we can unleash beneficial components of our own immune system to control the harmful inflammation that contributes to many chronic diseases."