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New angle on treating sepsis

Enzyme that plays role in inflammation may be suitable drug target

By blocking an enzyme that appears to incite inflammation in sepsis, researchers can reverse the deadly condition in mice, a study in the June 4 Science shows.

Sepsis is a massive inflammatory state typically triggered by a bacterial infection. The reaction can cause blood vessel leakage, organ failure and heart problems. Death rates from sepsis can be as high as 60 percent.

The enzyme that researchers blocked, called sphingosine kinase 1, or SphK1, is known to spur production of inflammatory proteins. That led researchers to investigate a potential link to sepsis. Such a connection hadn’t previously been made, says study coauthor Alirio Melendez, a physician at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

“This is a long way from getting into a clinical setting, but I think it’s promising,” says Derek Wheeler, a pediatric intensive care physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati.

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