SYDNEY, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers have made a vital breakthrough in combating the deadly sepsis, identifying the gene which triggers cell death and inflammation in sufferers.
Scientists from Australia's La Trobe University revealed their findings on Tuesday, describing them as a major breakthrough in the fight against sepsis, which has struggled to make significant progress for the past several years.
Sepsis is an overreaction of the immune system to infection, causing extreme inflation, leading to blood clots and blocking oxygen from reaching vital organs -- causing more than 11 million deaths worldwide every year.
The team from La Trobe found in cell based and animal tests that removing the protein receptor, TREML4 leads to almost absolute protection from sepsis.
They also identified the human equivalents of the TREML4 receptor, with the next step to develop therapeutic antibodies for use in clinical trials.
Lead researcher Dr Christina Nedeva explained that sepsis wreaks havoc with the body's immune system and therefore its ability to fight infection.
"The initial inflammatory phase, or septic shock, is followed by a prolonged immunosuppression phase, which commonly leads to pneumonia. While the shock accounts for about 15 percent of sepsis-related deaths, the immunosuppression phase accounts for 85 percent," Nedeva said.
"Excitingly, we've discovered the TREML4 gene regulates both of these phases."
While sepsis is both deadly and widespread, current therapies such as the use of steroids have made little progress in reducing the death toll.
"Steroids reduce inflammation, but they also wipe out the immune system, preventing our body from fighting both mild and serious infections," study lead supervisor, Associate Professor Hamsa Puthalakath explained.
"The removal of TREML4 can be described as the 'Goldilocks' approach, in that it leaves the body with some inflammation, but the immune system remains uncompromised and is healthy enough to fight off infection."
Puthalakath added that there have been more than 100 clinical trials for sepsis-related therapies in the last 25 years, none of which have proved successful.
"La Trobe is on the forefront of potentially life-saving research. We hope to secure new funding for the next stage of our study, which will focus on the development of therapeutic antibodies against the TREML4 receptor," he said. Enditem