Inflammation is our body’s first line of defence against infection or trauma. At the first sign of trouble immune cells (like the macrophage here visualised using computer-graphics) send out protein messengers to muster cellular troops to deal with the assault. Switching on the inflammatory response prevents overwhelming infection. But switching it off is critical too, since too much inflammation can damage body tissue. When an invader is detected a group of proteins (marked here in red) co-ordinate the crucial call to the cellular troops. Researchers have discovered that a protein called p62 (green) rapidly silences the alarm bell by labelling the relevant proteins for destruction in a cellular ‘bin-liner’ (visualised in yellow). Understanding how the inflammatory system works will help researchers find ways to prevent it from inflicting damage on the body’s own cells, as occurs in certain autoimmune disorders.
Written by Caroline Cross
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