MASP-1 enzyme plays a central role in activating the complement system

Published on November 7, 2012 at 1:51 AM · No Comments

Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, have now discovered an important mechanism behind one of our most fundamental lines of immune function. The discovery has been published in the esteemed scientific journal, The Journal of Immunology, where it has been highlighted as a top story.

In collaboration with colleagues from USA and Turkey, they have discovered exactly which enzymes collaborate in the first line of the immune defence. Thus, they answer a central question about the so-called complement system, which has been a focal point of the scientific field for the past decade: which enzyme does what?

Using blood samples from a unique patient harbouring a rare genetic syndrome, the researchers from Aarhus University have now established that it is the enzyme MASP-1 that is key to the activation of the complement system.

"Understanding the immune system is a central goal in itself in scientific terms, especially for our research group conducting basic research. But in the longer run, it is also an important goal that this knowledge may help people and cure diseases", says postdoc Soeren Egedal Degn from Aarhus University, who is first author on the paper.

Big perspectives for patients

He believes that once one has defined how the complement system works, it will be possible to manipulate it:

"For example this system is important for the survival of patients undergoing chemotherapy, because this treatment suppresses other functions of the immune system - so in their case it is beneficial to "rev up" the system. But following a heart attack there may be reasons to instead dampen the system. The complement system has an unfortunate tendency to attack tissues that have suffered damage due to deprivation of oxygen, and thereby it exacerbates the damage already done to the heart", says Soeren Egedal Degn.

He notes however, that the new discovery is unlikely to result in concrete new treatment modalities in this decade.

MASP-1 and the lectin pathway

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