New Targeted Treatment Calms Cytokine Storm

Researchers from Osaka University discover a novel treatment strategy (short-acting IL-6 antibody) for cytokine storm, a serious inflammatory syndrome triggered by an infection or severe burn.

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Cytokines are chemical messengers that help the body get rid of invading bacteria and viruses, and control inflammation. The body carefully balances cytokines because they help keep the immune system healthy. However, this balance is upset if the immune system overreacts. A serious infection or a severe burn can unleash a cytokine storm in the body. During the storm—also called cytokine release syndrome (CRS)—the body produces too many cytokines, leading to life-threatening inflammation. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a key cytokine in the storm because it helps to drive the inflammation that damages the body. IL-6 delivers its message by fastening to IL-6 receptors within cells, which tells the cells to spread inflammation. Because IL-6 is important in CRS, treatments that block the IL-6 signal can relieve inflammation. However, this blocking tends to be long-lasting, which leads to side effects. In a study published January 2, 2024 in PNAS, researchers from Osaka University have discovered a way to block IL-6 signals while minimizing treatment side effects. The group interrupted the inflammatory signal using an antibody that blocks the IL-6 receptor for only a short time. The brief interruption was long enough to protect the tissues against injury from cytokine storms caused by sepsis or severe burns. The article is titled “Gp130–HIF1α Axis–Induced Vascular Damage Is Prevented by the Short-Term Inhibition of IL-6 Receptor Signaling.”
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