Death to sepsis
Sepsis is a serious problem that is caused by the release of toxic substances from microorganisms during severe infection. It is often fatal and is the most common cause of death in many intensive care units. Studies show that sepsis induces large numbers of immune cells, called lymphocytes, to die. A number of proteins, called caspases, are involved in this death process. These proteins normally reside inside the cell in an inactive state. However, under certain conditions, such as during septicemia, they become active and instruct the cell to die.
In the December issue of Nature Immunology (Vol. 1, No. 6, 01 Dec 2000), scientists from Washington University, St. Louis, USA, have discovered a potential therapy for sepsis. Pharmacological inhibitors of caspases were administered to mice in an effort to prevent these molecules from triggering lymphocytes to die during bacterial infection. These inhibitors were shown to prevent lymphocyte death and improve survival in sepsis. By preventing cell death, the inhibitors allowed the lymphocytes to control bacterial infection in the normal manner. This potential therapy may eventually help to reduce rates of mortality due to sepsis.
Richard S. Hotchkiss
School of Medicine
Department of Anesthesiology
Campus Box 8054, 660 S. Euclid Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63110-1093
Tel: +1 314-362-8552
Fax: +1 314-362-8571
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza