Researchers from the University of California have discovered that the human protein resistin could be used to treat sepsis, the body’s extreme and uncontrolled immune response to an infection.
The researchers found that mice expressing resistin had a 100 per cent survival rate from a sepsis-like infection when compared to wild-type mice with the same infection.
Human resistin was previously thought to contribute to sepsis. However, the researchers have discovered that by interacting with TLR4 (a molecule found on the surface of cells, the innate receptor of our immune system which recognises danger from foreign pathogens) it can block the inflammatory responses induced by bacteria that leads to sepsis.
Meera Nair, the study’s lead author, said: ‘A lot of scientific literature has posited that resistin is harmful. But we may have misunderstood this secreted protein in our blood. My lab was intrigued by why we make so much of a substance that is, supposedly, not good for us. Resistin, we have now found, has a benefit: it is protective in sepsis. Further, because our bodies make this therapeutic, there is no fear of it being rejected.’
Sepsis kills about one in five affected people without prompt treatment.
The scientists who made the discovery are currently working on a new therapeutic treatment for the condition called Retn N-pep.
Nair said: ‘Retn N-pep blocked TLR4. It is smaller and more effective than human resistin in blocking inflammation in human blood cells. Potentially, it could inhibit any inflammatory disease involving TLR4.’