A research team based at the University of Chicago may have found a way to manipulate cell suicide, also known as programmed cell death, a normal process that regulates cell number but that goes awry in chronic inflammatory disorders, cancer and other diseases.
In the 12 Nov. 2004 issue of the journal Cell, the scientists show that a key step in the process of preventing cell suicide is the induction of ferritin heavy chain (FHC), a protein that collects and hoards iron. By sequestering iron -- which cells with suicidal tendencies need to make the harmful substances that induce death -- FHC prevents cellular suicide.
This finding suggests that drugs that modulate FHC or iron metabolism could provide a new and effective approach to anti-inflammatory therapy without the side effects, such as weakening the immune system, that come with current treatments. "In a long and complicated biochemical chain, this is one of the final links, which is exactly what we want," said study author Guido Franzoso, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Ben May Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago. "If we tamper with the front end, it changes everything, but boosting or blocking a downstream component allows us to select for a specific response."
John Easton | EurekAlert!
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