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Unexpected function in immune system


Researchers have found, using studies in human cells and mice, that a protein may give greater insights into how to treat autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.


Scientists at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland, studied a type of protein called an interleukin – known as ‘alarm proteins’ as they control inflammation, which is part of how the immune system responds to infection.


Specifically the researchers looked at interleukin-37 (found in humans, but not other mammals) to study its effect in human and mouse cells.


Interleukin-37 was previously assumed to act as an ‘off switch’ to suppress inflammation, but when they introduced the protein into lab mice, they saw that it instead triggered inflammation.


Professor Seamus Martin, at TCD said: “Interleukin-37 has long remained an enigma… This pro-inflammatory impact was highly unexpected.”


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