A study published today in the journal NATURE: Cell Biology shows that chronic exposure to an inflammatory “emergency” signal, interleukin-1, causes blood-forming bone marrow stem cells to produce cells needed to fight infection and repair injury, but at the expense of their own ability to self-renew and maintain a healthy blood system. This results in overproduction of aggressive immune cells capable of severely damaging tissues. Elevated interleukin-1 (IL-1) accompanies the chronic inflammation associated with human conditions including obesity, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. The imbalance of blood system cell types can result in inefficient oxygen delivery, immunodeficiency, and could predispose the development of cancer.
“Inflammation evolved to function for very short periods of time, marshaling resources to fight infections and repair damaged tissue. However, over long periods of time, these conditions become very toxic,” says Eric M. Pietras, PhD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and assistant professor at the CU School of Medicine Blood Cancer & BMT Program. Pietras performed the work as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Emmanuelle Passegué, PhD, professor at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California San Francisco.
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