March 9, 2016

Eye of a cytokine storm

A new animal model can be used to “dissect” the inflammatory response to infection.

Inappropriate activation of the inflammatory “innate” immune response to infection has been linked to a plethora of physical and mental disorders. Yet the response, which sends out a deluge of protective molecules called cytokines, is so complex it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

Now Matthew Robson, Ph.D., Chong-Bin Zhu, Ph.D., Randy Blakely, Ph.D., and colleagues have developed a mouse model that can “dissect” this complex response so it can be studied.

Described in this week’s PLOS ONE, the model allows for a “conditional knockout” of the gene that encodes a receptor known as IL1R1, the body’s principal target for the potent inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 beta.

Using these animals, researchers can now disable IL1R1 in specific parts of the body or during specific times of development, tracing the critical where and when of an inflammatory response.

Creation of the mice was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants MH086033, MH094527, MH096972, NS007491). Scientists can obtain the mouse model through the Jackson Laboratory in Maine.

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