SAN FRANCISCO (Dispatches) -- Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified a molecular "switch” that controls the immune machinery responsible for chronic inflammation in the body. The finding could lead to new ways to halt or even reverse many of these age-related conditions.
In the study, senior author Danica Chen, associate professor of metabolic biology, nutritional sciences and toxicology at UC Berkeley and her team show that a bulky collection of immune proteins called the NLRP3 inflammasome -- responsible for sensing potential threats to the body and launching an inflammation response -- can be essentially switched off by removing a small bit of molecular matter in a process called deacetylation.
Overactivation of the NLRP3 inflammasome has been linked to a variety of chronic conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes and dementia. Chen’s results suggest that drugs targeted toward deacetylating, or switching off, this NLRP3 inflammasome might help prevent or treat these conditions and possibly age-related degeneration in general.