MG53, a natural protein, can help stop life-threatening lung inflammation associated with flu, suggests study
Studies have shown that recombinant MG53 can ameliorate injury on various tissues, including the heart, skin, lungs and skeletal muscles
Inflammation is a normal response of our body to injury or infection. It increases blood flow to the affected tissue so more immune system cells can reach it and then helps these cells cross blood vessels into the target site, leading to swelling and fluid accumulation. The inflammatory response also stimulates pain so you protect the affected area.
However, a dysregulated inflammatory response may lead to a condition called cytokine storm and damage healthy tissue. Several viral diseases, including influenza and COVID-19 , are associated with inflammation and damage in the body.
Now, a group of researchers at the Ohio State University led by Dr Jacob Yount, Associate Professor of Microbial Infection and Immunity, suggest that a natural protein called MG53 present in the human body may be used to stop the life-threatening lung inflammation and damage that can occur in flu patients.
The results of the preclinical study (done on mice) are published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
MG53, also called TRIM72, is a type of protein that performs various functions in the body but it has a key role in the repair of cell membranes (outer covering of body cells). Previous studies have shown that recombinant MG53 can ameliorate injury on various tissues including the heart, skin, lungs and skeletal muscles.
The protein is already indicated as a potential therapy in the treatment of various diseases, ranging from skin injuries to Alzheimer’s.
As per a news release by the Ohio State University, Dr Yount got the idea of the study from a student of Dr Jianje Ma, Professor of Cardiac Surgery at Ohio State University. Ma, who had earlier discovered the role of MG53 in cell repair and was developing the protein for its therapeutic benefits, co-led the study.
For the study, the researchers infected mice with a lethal dose of H1N1 influenza virus and treated half of the mice with recombinant MG53 that Ma’s lab had been developing as a therapeutic agent. The other half got a placebo.
Within nine days of the infection with the virus, all the untreated mice died. They showed aggressive weight loss too.
However, over 92 percent of the mice treated with MG53 lost only a bit of their body weight and were also active during the infection. They regained their normal weight two weeks after recovering from the infection.
Interestingly, it was only tissue damage that the protein prevented, the viral load remained similar in both the groups. “Even though these mice had the same viral load as the untreated mice, they didn’t get very sick – with the lethal dose of the flu,” said Dr Yount in the news release.
“The protein has a way to recognise tissue that’s been injured and it can go there directly,” said Dr Ma explaining what was actually happening in the mice. “We are basically enhancing a natural anti-inflammatory mechanism in the body so that when you face the crisis of an aggressive virus infection, the body can better defend itself.” He added.
The research team is now testing the effectiveness of MG53 in mice infected with SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 infection.
For more information, read our article on Flu.
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