Vanderbilt, VA researchers identify genetic code to target sepsis

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and the Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center have identified thousands of genes that are altered in the lungs and kidneys by sepsis, paving the way for treatment and prevention approaches. 

Their findings, published Aug. 11 in Frontiers in Immunology, show sepsis increased or decreased the expression of more than 6,000 genes in the lungs, the site of acute respiratory distress syndrome, as well as more than 5,400 genes in the kidneys, the site of acute kidney injury. They also demonstrated how a cell-penetrating peptide drug may control the inflammatory response. 

In an animal model, the drug "reprogrammed" the expression of more than 3,700 sepsis-induced genes in the lungs, and 1,951 in the kidneys. The approach "paves the way for potentially effective treatment of sepsis, one of the most prevailing and challenging complications of severe infections worldwide," researchers said. 

Jack Hawiger, MD, PhD, senior author on the study, said the findings are a culmination of more than 25 years of research, marking the research team's Opus Magnus," according to an Aug. 21 blog post from VUMC.

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