Chinese medicine could hold key to treating inflammatory illnesses

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TRADITIONAL Chinese medicine could hold key to tackling common inflammatory conditions, researchers in Yorkshire claim.

The discovery by experts at Sheffield University could lead to the creation of drugs for largely incurable conditions among them chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Normally when a person is injured or gets an infection, the body sends specialist white blood cells to clean up the area, resulting in it becoming red and inflamed. The inflammation usually ebbs away over time but in certain diseases the inflammation remains, doing more damage to surrounding tissue.

Now scientists could have uncovered a solution using an ingredient found in traditional Chinese medicine which has inflammation-reducing capabilities, giving it the potential to treat a range of diseases.

By screening drugs in zebrafish, researchers found a compound to reduce inflammation which they say is a completely new way to treat it.

The discovery has for the first time given scientists the opportunity to develop anti-inflammatory drugs which do not increase the risk of infection like current treatments.

Prof Stephen Renshaw, from the university’s department of infection and immunity, said chronic inflammatory diseases were a “major cause of illness and death worldwide”, many of which 
were typically characterised by the persistence of white blood cells. “Sending immune cells away from damaged tissue might be a good way to allow the damage to heal while still allowing those immune cells to protect us against infection,” he said.