Inflammatory lung diseases such as asthma, COPD and, most recently, COVID-19, have proven difficult to treat. Current therapies reduce symptoms and do little to stop such diseases from continuing to damage the lungs. Much research into treating chronic inflammatory diseases has focused on blocking chemicals called cytokines, which trigger cascades of molecular events that fuel damaging inflammation.
Now, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that such cytokines can drive inflammation in more ways than previously understood, perhaps revealing new routes to potential treatments for chronic inflammatory conditions.
A new study demonstrates that in addition to raining down directly into tissues and triggering damaging events, cytokines can come packaged in tiny compartments called exosomes, making the packaged cytokines extremely difficult to detect and nearly impossible to study without specialized instruments. Not being able to study these exosomes means scientists could be missing important strategies to treat or prevent inflammatory disease.
The study, in JCI Insight, also demonstrates that understanding how these inflammatory cytokines are packaged can reveal new ways to block them, preventing lung disease from developing, at least in mice…