Research on immune system may help in healing chronic inflammatory diseases

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Biochemists at Kiel University, along with international scientists, have identified an important messenger in the immune system.

The messenger interleukin-27 plays an important role when the human body blocks inflammations. This was discovered by an international research team, of which the Kiel Professors Joachim Grötzinger and Stefan Rose-John, as well as the doctoral candidate, Björn Spudy, are a part of. The research findings of the scientists from Kiel, the US and Great Britain were published yesterday, Sunday (7 November 2010), in the online advance edition of Nature Immunology.

The human immune system reacts to bodily injuries and infections with inflammation. This is important for the healing process, but can result in harmful effects if it becomes chronic. Inflammation is triggered by messengers such as the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6). This peptide hormone latches on to special receptor molecules on cells and compels inflammation. "We observed that another cytokine, interleukin-27, can counteract this effect", explained Professor Joachim Grötzinger, from the Institute of Biochemistry at Kiel University. "IL-27 latches on to the same receptors as IL-6 and thus inhibits the inflammatory reaction." The Kiel biochemists were able to support the international research team with their knowledge of IL-6 in particular. According to Grötzinger, "We have dedicated ourselves to this topic for over 20 years". Professor Stefan Rose-John added: "We hope that these fundamental findings will one day be able to aid the healing of chronic inflammatory diseases".

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