Research highlights

Treating sepsis

Sepsis or blood poisoning kills more people than HIV/AIDS, breast and prostate cancers combined. It is a condition where a systemic infection leads to multiple organ failure, immune paralysis and death. Dr Hamsa Puthalakath and PhD student Marcel Doerflinger have identified the mechanism of immune cell death and developed a treatment strategy using a bile acid derivative. Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, may lead to new therapeutic options for the treatment of sepsis.

Polyphosphate, a novel regulator of the complement system

Inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) is a polymer that is widespread in biology and has many functions. Dr Lakshmi Wijeyewickrema, Dr Lillian Hor and Professor Robert Pike, together with collaborators from the University of British Columbia, have shown that polyP has an effect in the modulation of proteins involved in the complement system. The complement system orchestrates and connects various responses during inflammatory reactions. The novel finding that polyP can play a role in the mechanisms that shape the inflammatory response and its resolution provides further insight into the role of complement in pathological processes and in exploiting complement targets for therapeutic modulation.

Studying late stage apoptosis

In the human body, billions of cells die every day in a regulated process known as apoptosis. PhD students Lanzhou Jiang and Rochelle Tixeira, under the supervision of Dr Ivan Poon, have developed a new method for studying late stage apoptosis and, in particular, the role of apoptotic bodies (or particles) in cell communication and clearance. Their method, published in Nature Protocols, will allow scientists to further explore the apoptotic process in human health and disease.