Research carried out at The University of Manchester has found further evidence that a simple solution, which is already used in IV drips, is an effective treatment for reducing inflammation.
The researchers also identified that hypertonic solution, which is a solution with an elevated concentration of salt, can ease inflammation purely through bathing in it - proving the Victorians were right to visit spa towns to "take the waters" for ailments like rheumatoid arthritis.
The research team, led by Dr Pablo Pelegrin, was investigating how cell swelling can control inflammation; the immune system's first response to injury or infection.
They discovered that white blood cells swell in a similar way to how tissue swells around a wound. The team then went on to look at what causes the swelling.
The researchers injected solutions with low ions into mice. They found that these solutions acted as a danger signal, causing cells to swell. The swelling then activates a group of proteins called NLRP3 which then release inflammatory mediators. These activate neighbouring cells to increase inflammation.
However, when a hypertonic solution was administered to the mouse it drew the water out of the cells shrinking them back to their original size. This in turn deactivated the signal for inflammation.
Dr Pelegrin's research provides further evidence for the use of hypertonic fluid therapy for the reduction of inflammation in the brain, a treatment that can reduce the amount of damage caused by illnesses such as stroke and epilepsy. His team has been able to show for the first time why the solution works at a molecular level.
Dr Pelegrin says: "Hypertonic solutions have been used in the treatment of stroke for many years. Clinicians have found that their use not only reduces brain swelling, but also alleviates brain inflammation. However, because there wasn't a molecular target for hypertonic solutions there has been a lot of debate about the clinical effect. Here we have indentified a target for hypertonic solutions by blocking the NLRP3 inflammasome which triggers inflammatory mediators at a molecular level".