How to extinguish the inflammation epidemic | New Scientist

December 16, 2017

How to extinguish the inflammation epidemic QT: “Persistent background
#inflammation…dubbed…’para-inflammation’…is an unfortunate consequence of…long…lives. Stress is a…problem…Inflammation is being discussed…[as linking it]…w/ disease”

This persistent background inflammation might not always make us feel ill, but it can store up problems for the future, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative disease. In 2008,
immunobiologist Ruslan Medzhitov of Yale University dubbed this “para-inflammation” and argued that it is an unfortunate consequence of our longer, calorie-rich lives.

Stress is a particular problem. The hormone noradrenaline, which is released in anticipation of an impending life-or-death situation, sets off the same chain of events as an infection or injury. Yet although stresses passed quickly in our evolutionary past, these days many of us are walking around with a ticking time bomb of stress-induced inflammation that never quite goes away. “Chronic, low-grade inflammation is being discussed in our field as one of the main pathways linking stressful life conditions with disease,” says Nicolas Rohleder of Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Over the past few years, for example, Rohleder has found that the long-term strains of caring for a seriously ill family member, and a series of short-term stresses, both increase levels of inflammatory markers in otherwise healthy people.

One clue came in 2000 when Serhan and his team revealed that inflammation has an off switch. Until then, the reaction was thought to peter out as the immune cells that secrete cytokines gradually reduced in number and their effects became diluted. In fact, Serhan found that neutrophils and macrophages, the types of white blood cell that kick off the process, actively change tack once it has got going, releasing a second set of chemicals – called resolvins – that help mop up any remaining cytokines and sweep away any debris.