Immune cell study prompts rethink on how to tackle infections

Fresh insights into how immune cells are regulated could signal a new approach to tackling infections. Researchers have found that oxygen levels in the body can profoundly change the way immune cells behave. Scientists say the findings pave the way for new therapies that target the immune response to infection, with the potential to boost existing antibiotic treatments.

The research in mice found that bacterial infections have vastly different outcomes depending on levels of oxygen in the body when the infection takes hold.

If oxygen levels are low when infection strikes, the immune system launches a massive overreaction. A fatal illness ensues even though the bacteria have been cleared from the body.

Exposure to low oxygen before infection, however, seems to protect the body from illness without compromising its ability to fight off bacteria.

Researchers say the effects are caused by changes to the way the cells use energy, which reprogrammes their response.

If human cells are found to behave in the same way, tweaking their oxygen sensing mechanisms could hold the key to tackling infections, the team says.

The findings are particularly relevant for people with chronic lung conditions, such as emphysema. They often have low levels of oxygen in their body and are more vulnerable to infections.

The study was carried out by scientists in the Medical Research Council Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh and is published in the journal Science Immunology.

Dr Sarah Walmsley, of the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We are excited by our observation that oxygen levels can regulate immune cell responses to infection. Targeting these pathways could have the potential to improve outcomes from infections where oxygen is limited."

A. A. Roger Thompson, Rebecca S. Dickinson, Fiona Murphy, John P. Thomson, Helen M. Marriott, Adriana Tavares, Joseph Willson, Lynne Williams, Amy Lewis, Ananda Mirchandani, Patricia Dos Santos Coelho, Catherine Doherty, Eilise Ryan, Emily Watts, Nicholas M. Morton, Shareen Forbes, Roland H. Stimson, Abdul G. Hameed, Nadine Arnold, Julie A. Preston, Allan Lawrie, Veronica Finisguerra, Massimiliano Mazzone, Pranvera Sadiku, Jermaine Goveia, Federico Taverna, Peter Carmeliet, Simon J. Foster, Edwin R. Chilvers, Andrew S. Cowburn, David H. Dockrell, Randall S. Johnson, Richard R. Meehan, Moira K. B. Whyte, Sarah R. Walmsley.
Hypoxia determines survival outcomes of bacterial infection through HIF-1α–dependent reprogramming of leukocyte metabolism.
Science Immunology, doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aal2861.

Most Popular Now

Pfizer begins a Phase 1/2 study to evaluate respir…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced that it has started a Phase 1/2 trial of its respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine candidate in healthy adult volunteers. RSV i...

Eczema drug effective against severe asthma

Two new studies of patients with difficult-to-control asthma show that the eczema drug dupilumab alleviates asthma symptoms and improves patients' ability to breathe bett...

Most popular vitamin and mineral supplements provi…

The most commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements provide no consistent health benefit or harm, suggests a new study led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital...

AstraZeneca heads to 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting with…

AstraZeneca and MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm, head to the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, US...

Tiny particles could help fight brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor, is one of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Only a handful of drugs are approved to treat glioblastoma, and the median ...

Novartis data at ASCO and EHA reinforce company's …

Novartis will present data from across its oncology portfolio at the upcoming 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to be held June 1-5 ...

Spiolto® Respimat® enables greater physical activi…

Boehringer Ingelheim announced data which add to the growing body of evidence that show Spiolto® (tiotropium/olodaterol) Respimat® enables greater physical activity in pa...

Amgen Foundation and Harvard team up to offer free…

The Amgen Foundation and Harvard University today announced plans to launch a free online science education platform uniquely designed to level the playing field for aspi...

New approach to immunotherapy leads to complete re…

A novel approach to immunotherapy developed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has led to the complete regression of breast cancer in a patient who was...

Study demonstrates new treatment for severe asthma

Researchers from McMaster University and the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, together with colleagues at other partnering ...

The Pfizer Foundation announces $5 million in gran…

The Pfizer Foundation announced a new $5 million grant commitment to initiatives in low- and middle-income countries that provide family planning access and education for...

Study finds antioxidant-enriched vitamin reduces r…

Researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) and the University of Colorado School of Medicine have found that taking a specially formulated antioxid...