A new promising target for reversing sepsis has been discovered by researchers. Scientists at the University of Michigan Health System looked at microRNA, a type of RNA that does not code for a protein itself but that can regulate the expression of other genes and proteins.
They found that by attacking the right microRNA they could influence a key trigger of inflammatory diseases such as sepsis.
Traditionally, researchers have gone after a bigger target, attempting to find compounds that directly control inflammatory triggers such as interleukin 6, or IL-6.
"If you can connect all the dots, you can target a single microRNA and impact an inflammatory process like sepsis. But given the role of IL-6 in other diseases, we think this might have broader implications than sepsis for diseases where IL-6 plays a role," said study author Pavan Reddy, M.D., associate professor of hematology/oncology at the U-M Medical School.
The researchers looked specifically at dendritic cells, specialized types of cells that are considered the first-responders in an immune response.
Dendritic cells are also amongst the most important cells that turn on other immune cells. Using bioinformatics tools, the researchers identified two microRNAs within the dendritic cells that seemed most predominant in regulating IL-6. One, called miR-142-3p, was shown to have a direct link to regulating IL-6.
The researchers were then able to specifically target miR-142-3p that would block it from influencing IL-6. They found in mice that doing this reduced deaths from sepsis.
The study has been published in the journal Blood.