Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Stop Overreacting

Immune system anti-viral molecule interleukin-17 contributes to arthritis and muscle damage response

05 May 2022

Stop Overreacting

You’ve hired a gardener, but they’re a little overenthusiastic. They discover slugs eating your flowers, so they fetch their flamethrower and torch everything. The slugs are gone, but the collateral damage is terrible. Your immune system can overreact too. Ross River virus (RRV) causes painful arthritis that can last for years, but most of the damage is due to inflammation triggered by the immune system. The left panel shows fibres of skeletal muscle (yellow) from a mouse infected with RRV. The right panel gives a closer look at helper T cells (white) and killer T cells (pink) producing interleukin-17 (green), a molecule that activates inflammation to keep viruses in check. Researchers found that interleukin-17 levels dramatically increased in RRV-infected mice but blocking this signal decreased inflammation and arthritis severity. Importantly, blocking interleukin-17 didn’t increase the number of viruses present. This strategy may soon be applied as a treatment for people with arthritis caused by RRV.

Written by Henry Stennett

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