Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Inflammasome and Beyond...,

elysiumhealth |  The Takeaway: In his lab at Yale School of Medicine, immunobiologist Vishwa Deep Dixit and his team are researching the ties between the immune system, metabolism, and aging-related diseases, with a specific focus on an oft-misunderstood biological phenomenon — inflammation.

We all know inflammation: the painful red swelling that happens when we are injured or a wound becomes infected. But why would a Yale scientist interested in the mechanisms of aging and age-related disease be leading a lab researching such a thing?

Turns out there’s a lot more to the condition than most people realize. “‘Inflammation’ is not just a word not understood properly by the lay public, it’s often not properly understood by scientists,” said Vishwa Deep Dixit, a professor of comparative medicine and immunobiology at Yale’s School of Medicine. Dixit and eight other students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors study the intersection between the immune system and metabolism at Dixit Lab. Their focus is not these signs of “classic” inflammation, like redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function. Instead, they believe a different, underlying condition, “low-grade chronic inflammation,” is part of a wider immune system process linked to aging and age-related diseases. By studying the connections between inflammation and other bodily systems, like metabolism and the immune system, they hope to help humans live longer. We asked Dixit about his lab’s work, the future of immunobiological research, and the potential for effective interventions in human health.

Before You Start: Terms to Understand

The immune system’s local, short-term response to cellular damage by increasing blood flow and other repair-focused compounds.

Low-grade chronic inflammation: A “slow drip” response to widespread cell damage caused by aging, with the byproduct of impairing the function of cells and organs.

Inflammasome: A multiprotein intra-cellular complex that regulates inflammatory responses.

The sum of every chemical reaction that happens in the body. It breaks down (catabolism) food for energy and also rebuilds (anabolism) those basic molecules into cells.

Macrophage: Immune cells that reside in every organ in the body and are critical to maintaining organ function.