Sepsis-based immune system failure may be reversible, study finds

A specific type of sugar in the body may restore the ability of cells to respond to infections after sepsis has compromised the immune system, according to a new study published in the journal Cell.

Sepsis-induced immunosuppression impedes the ability of monocytes, a type of white blood cell, to develop into macrophages capable of removing threats to the immune system. During sepsis infection, monocytes are exposed to lipopolysaccharide, a bacterial molecule, and subsequently mature into macrophages with a greatly impaired ability to combat foreign cells.

For the study, researchers examined the epigenetic setting of these different types of macrophages and discovered the sugar beta-glucan, which is found in fungal cell walls, could trigger one of the immune system's control switches. Subsequently, researchers introduced beta-glucan into blood samples of subjects with compromised immune systems and the sugar reactivated the immunoresponse of the macrophages.

"This is an important step toward understanding how the tolerized phenotype can be reversed in sepsis patients and ultimately provides the framework for future therapeutic developments in innate immune diseases," concluded the study's authors.

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