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Decoding a protein to fend off sepsis

8:37pm, December 18, 2006

From Orlando, Fla., at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology

Sepsis is a lethal blood disorder that typically arises from bacterial infections. It's marked by organ damage caused by inflammation and blood vessel leakage. A synthetic version of activated protein C (ACP) is the sole drug approved to specifically attack sepsis, but it only slightly reduces the risk of death. Scientists had suggested that APC works by protecting healthy cells from dying and had found it to have anticoagulant effects.

A study in mice now finds that the anticoagulant property isn't APC's key attribute—in fact, it might even be a shortcoming. Instead, APC's value stems from its ability to attach to two proteins on the surface of cells. By binding to these two receptors, APC inhibits a death signal in a cell, says biologist Harmut Weiler of the BloodCenter of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Weiler notes that the two affected receptors are commonly found on cells that make

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