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Leading scientists join forces to tackle ‘devastating’ inflammation

Inflammation is a natural body response to damage, helping recovery. Unfortunately, uncontrolled inflammation is damaging. P2X7 receptor plays important role in inflammation and understanding it should lead to the development of better treatments for diseases with the inflammatory component, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy depicted here.

World leading scientists have won funding which could eventually throw much-needed light on inflammation, including its involvement in cancer growth and spread.

Rheumatoid arthritis, a common form of inflammatory disease

Professor Darek Gorecki, at the University of Portsmouth, and Professor Francesco DiVirgilio, at University of Ferrara, Italy, were awarded the Royal Society International Exchange two years grant.

Professor Gorecki said: “We need treatments to stop excessive inflammation and, by joining forces with other experts in the field, we hope to answer the important biomedical question which also has a strong therapeutic potential.”

Inflammation, or swelling, is how the body often reacts to an injury and it’s essential in helping body repair. However, sometimes tissues can “inflame” uncontrollably causing more tissue damage.

“Inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or glomerulonephritis are common and inflammation can sometimes promote cancer growth and spread,” he said.

The grant was given to bring together two world-class research groups with complementary interests in P2X7 – a receptor found throughout our bodies and most commonly on the surface of immune cells. When it is activated, a chain of events then unfolds, some of it good, some not.

Because receptors, such as P2X7, are found on the surface of cells, they are relatively easy for drugs to target.

“We now know that prolonged activation of P2X7 causes the release of proteins which can degrade the very P2X7 receptor it comes from and stop its activity, allowing the inflammatory process to carry on unhindered,” Professor Gorecki said.

“We are yet to understand why P2X7 can cause both the release of and be present in microvescicles – found in many types of body fluids and the spaces between cells and which act as communicators and transporters between cells – these can perform a range of tasks, including spreading inflammation away from its original site.

“We need to study the relationship between microvesicles production, the release of their content and the effects they have in spreading inflammation.

“When we understand this P2X7 receptor functions better we can develop new and effective treatments for inflammatory diseases without the typical side effects of current anti-inflammatory drugs.”

The grant will allow two leading experts to combine expertise and exchanges of research students, improving the training and skills of the next generation of researchers.

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