Sepsis is a severe whole-body infection that occurs as a complication to an existing infection. If not treated quickly, it can lead to septic shock and multiple organ failure, with death rates as high as 50%. In a breakthrough discovery, scientists have now identified a gene that triggers the inflammatory condition. This finding could help opening the door for the development of new treatment of the lethal disease.
Study co-author Chris Goodnow from the Australian National University (ANU) said, "This finding is a key that could potentially unlock our ability to shutdown this killer disease before it gets to a life-threatening stage."
Researchers knew that sepsis occurs when molecules known as lipopolysaccharides on the surface of some bacteria infiltrate cells, triggering an immune response that causes the cells to self-destruct. But exactly how this self-destruct button was pressed remained a mystery.
The research team found the protein Gasdermin-D plays a critical role in the pathway to sepsis. The investigators then screened thousands of genes with a large-scale forward genetics discovery platform and in a little over a year isolated the gene that produces Gasdermin-D.
Professor Simon Foote, director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at ANU said, "Isolating the gene so quickly was a triumph for the team."
The study was published in Nature.