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Researchers have found a new pathway to regulate immune response and potentially control inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system like sepsis and meningitis.

The researchers from University of Texas at Arlington, USA, found that the long non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecule HOTAIR present in white blood cells has the capacity to signal these cells to activate immune response in the presence of bacteria.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is present in all living cells. Its primary role is to carry instructions from DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid, more commonly known as DNA, contains all of the information necessary to build and maintain an organism. It is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. It is a long molecule that contains our unique genetic code.

“We need to know what turns on inflammatory response to bacterial infection to be able to modulate the process,” said Subhrangsu Mandal, University of Texas at Arlington associate professor of chemistry who led the research.

“If we can do so, we can control inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system that have been hard to treat up to now, such as sepsis and meningitis, as well as cancer and muscular dystrophy, which can also be seen as a kind of inflammation,” he added.

Mandal and his team’s research findings were published in Scientific Reports.

The researchers used the resources of University of Texas at Arlington ‘s North Texas Genome Center to demonstrate that noncoding RNA expression — including HOTAIR — is induced in white blood cells treated with lipopolysaccharide, which are molecules found on the outer membrane of bacterial cells.

The research showed that HOTAIR gene was expressed alongside cytokines, which are excreted by cells as part of immune response, and inflammatory response genes such as iNOS. As a result, it is possible to conclude that HOTAIR is a key regulator for pathogen-induced cytokine expression, immune response and inflammation.

Fred MacDonnell, University of Texas at Arlington chair of chemistry and biochemistry, congratulated Mandal on this new research.

“Basic science related to the pathways for immune response is critical as there have been very few successes up to now in developing treatments for extreme inflammations like sepsis and meningitis,” MacDonnell said.


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