Georgia State research team discovers way to suppress bodily inflammation

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Illustration by Uduak Ita

Dr. Jian-Dong Li, director of Georgia State’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences, and his research team have discovered a way to suppress inflammation without the harmful side effects of steroids, according to a Georgia State release.

Li said he and his team synthesized special glucocorticoids to observe how they would suppress or amplify inflammation.

He also said glucocorticoids are a form of steroid hormone which target receptor proteins to suppress inflammation
Glucocorticoids are commonly used anti-inflammatory agents, according to the release.

“…Steroids have been effective at suppressing inflammation, but if used for long-term treatment the can cause serious side effects such as increased risk of infections, liver damage, fluid retention, increased blood pressure, weight gain, easy bruising and slower wound healing,” the release states.
Li said proteins commonly found in the human body can be compared to the pedals of a car.

“IRAK-M is a protein that acts like the brake of a car in that it negatively regulates inflammation [when encountering a protein]. MyD88 is the gas pedal,” he said.

By mimicking the desired functions of the glucocorticoids the research team discovered they could target the appropriate protein to communicate the intended response, according to Li.

Li said he has been cooperating with the same team of scientists for a few years in efforts to better comprehend the immune system’s inflammatory response.

“This is a global collaboration, and we all shared a common interest in inflammation, so we gathered a team of the leading investigators of that field,” he said.

Their findings were published in the Natural Communications Scientific Journal on Jan. 14.
Li said although inflammation is mainly used to ward off infections and viruses without proper regulation it can damage the body.
“Inflammation is the body’s first defence however, if it is overactive or out of control, inflammation can cause diseases.

Unfortunately, steroids are still among the most commonly used anti-inflammatory agents, but how they work is not really understood. We are learning from the traits and mechanisms of steroids,” he said.
The findings will open new doors to inflammation control research, according to Li.

“This is an exciting discovery which may lead to the development of new therapeutics that would impact many inflammation patients,” he said.

Li also said he believes this discovery should intrigue students in the science departments as well as many others.

“This discovery will offer many future opportunities for the pre-professional school students to get involved in biomedical research,” he said.