Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When the body attacks itself

March 28, 2011
The Research Council of Norway
Those afflicted with psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney inflammation are all victims of their own immune system; their bodies are attacking healthy cells. Medicines targeted at one troublesome enzyme could make life easier for people suffering from these conditions.

Many chronic diseases are the result of the body's immune system mistakenly perceiving that the body is under attack from foreign bodies. A counterattack is then launched -- an inflammatory response meant to vanquish the intruder. In reality, the immune system has misinterpreted the threat and is actually attacking the body's own cells and tissue.

Unless this situation is rectified, an inflammation can become chronic and eventually lead to psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis or a number of other inflammatory conditions. Professor Berit Johansen and her research colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim have discovered one of the culprits in this process -- the enzyme phospholipase A2 (PLA2).

"This is the enzyme that triggers the inflammatory response," explains Professor Johansen. "We are currently conducting research on various molecules that we believe could arrest PLA2 activity, thus stopping the inflammatory response."

Professor Johansen and her colleagues have received funding from the Research Council of Norway's programmes Functional Genomics (FUGE) and User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA).

Clinical trials in one year

Professor Johansen's research on PLA2 provided the starting point for Avexxin, a company established in 2005. In roughly one year, the company plans to begin the first clinical trials of a medicine for psoriasis. Parallel to these, the researchers will also continue testing other molecules that can hopefully put a stop to rheumatoid arthritis and kidney inflammation.

Despite the common objective for all three diseases -- to trip up the PLA2 enzyme -- different means are needed to accomplish this. Since the enzyme functions differently in different cells and tissue types, combating the inflammation requires a variety of molecules.

Mikael Ørum, President and CEO of Avexxin, explains that the company could have chosen to target a number of other inflammatory diseases, but that rheumatoid arthritis and kidney inflammation are each distinctive in their own way.

"Rheumatoid arthritis is a very common disease," says Mr Ørum, "so an effective medication would benefit many people. Kidney inflammation, on the other hand, is rare, but no treatment exists for it. Patients have to undergo frequent dialysis and intensive care -- so medication to treat this would be a major advance."

Avoiding side effects

Mr Ørum estimates that a psoriasis medicine could be available on the market in five to six years. For the other two diseases, the researchers must still narrow down their choice to the single most highly effective molecule from among the candidates. Their results have been promising so far.

Bringing a new medicine to market is a lengthy, involved process. In this case, the researchers must first mix the PLA2 enzyme with the candidate molecule in a test tube to observe whether the molecule succeeds in neutralising the enzyme activity. If so, the same sort of testing is performed on human cells in the laboratory.

"It's important that the molecule only affects the PLA2 enzyme and no others," points out Professor Johansen. "Too broad an impact could lead to side effects."

The final phase before testing a medicine on humans involves a number of trials on animal models for the disease. The medicine being developed for rheumatoid arthritis has now reached this phase, while the molecules targeting kidney inflammation are not as far along yet. The research on both of these diseases has received funding under the National Programme for Research in Functional Genomics in Norway (FUGE), one of the Research Council's Large-scale Programmes.

Earlier-stage treatment

Various enzymes play a role in transforming a cell from healthy to dysfunctional. According to Professor Johansen, the PLA2 enzyme works its mischief at an earlier stage than the enzymes targeted by current medicines, which may entail great benefits for patients.

"Medicines targeted at a point too far along in the disease progression have major side effects," explains Professor Johansen. "This means that a patient must be very ill for the treatment to be worth suffering through its side effects. Our goal is to develop more effective medicines that work at an earlier stage and have fewer side effects."

Current medicines on the market, as well as those the professor and her colleagues are developing, can only treat the symptom, i.e. the inflammation. Since the causes of chronic inflammatory diseases are not yet known, it is impossible to get to the root of these and eradicate them for good.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Research Council of Norway. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

The Research Council of Norway. "When the body attacks itself." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110324104412.htm>.
The Research Council of Norway. (2011, March 28). When the body attacks itself. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110324104412.htm
The Research Council of Norway. "When the body attacks itself." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110324104412.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This

More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins