The immune system is essential for clearing viruses, but it can damage the body when it overreacts if it is not quickly contained. Such overreaction occurs in a number of diseases as well as influenza, such as asthma and inflammatory conditions in the gut, and can cause inflammation.
The new study reveals how the activity of immune cells in the lung is normally kept under control by a receptor known as CD200R, working with another molecule called CD200.
CD200R is found in high levels in the lungs and the new research shows that it is able to limit the immune system's response and to turn off inflammation once it has started. Influenza overrides the CD200 molecule and without CD200 to bind to, CD200R cannot work to prevent the immune system from overreacting, so the lungs become inflamed.
In the new study, the researchers gave mice infected with influenza a mimic of CD200, or an antibody to stimulate CD200R, to see if these would enable CD200R to bring the immune system under control and reduce inflammation.
The mice that received treatment had less weight loss than control mice and less inflammation in their airways and lung tissue. The influenza virus was still cleared from the lungs within seven days and so this strategy did not appear to affect the immune system's ability to fight the virus itself.
Following these results in mice, the researchers hope that a therapy could be developed for people which can quickly work with the CD200R receptor and stop the immune system from fighting when it is no longer needed. They believe this would quickly reduce symptoms and reduce the damage that the immune system causes in the lungs and elsewhere.
MEDICA.de; Source: Imperial College London