Synchrotron revealing inflammation secrets

Prof Catherine Day, of the University of Otago biochemistry department. Photo: Supplied
Prof Catherine Day, of the University of Otago biochemistry department. Photo: Supplied
Innovative University of Otago research into inflammatory signalling mechanisms could help improve the effectiveness of new immunotherapies against melanoma and other cancers.

Otago biochemistry researchers are making use of the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne in their studies. It is a roughly football field-sized machine that can create extremely intense beams of radiation  to analyse materials at minuscule scales. Otago scientist Prof Catherine Day and colleagues are using the Synchrotron’s MX beamlines to probe the innermost secrets of the complex protein-signalling mechanisms that regulate inflammation in human cells.

Prof Day said inflammation was supposed to be an acute protective response that kept our tissues in a steady state and cells in good health. But when the inflammatory response was not closed off, or the signalling involved otherwise went awry, it could lead to cancers and other diseases.

With the synchrotron, the researchers have  made great strides in their crystallography studies to determine the shape of one of the key proteins in this signalling process. Learning more about the exact mechanisms involved opened the way for new or refined targets for therapy for melanoma, and diseases associated with chronic inflammation, Prof Day said.

These  latest  findings were published in the  leading international journal Nature Communications.

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