Turning off the Immune System
Two UMSL researchers have collaborated to find a way to
“turn off” the immune system
when it overreacts.
Sepsis is a condition in which the immune system’s reaction to an infection affects organ function and can eventually lead to septic shock – a sometimes fatal drop in blood pressure. Two researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis have collaborated to find a way to “turn off” the immune system when it overreacts.
Michael Nichols, associate professor, and Alexei Demchenko, director of graduate studies, shared their labs and expertise to tackle the problem. When the body fights an infection, dead bacteria often break into fragments and trick the body into thinking the infection has grown. This causes a flood of macrophage cells – white blood cells that engulf and then digest cellular debris and pathogens – to build where the infection is identified, leading to sepsis.
Nichols and Demchenko have identified the molecules that trigger this response and have developed a simple, reproducible carbohydrate to block the receptor if the immune system overreacts.