Sin­ga­pore sci­en­tists dis­cover that crit­i­cal protein in­ter­leukin1 11 (IL11) causes fi­bro­sis and or­gan dam­age

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

It has long been known that a protein known as trans­form­ing growth fac­tor beta 12 (TGFB1) is the ma­jor cause of fi­bro­sis and scar­ring of body or­gans. Re­searchers from Duke-NUS and Na­tional Heart Cen­tre Sin­ga­pore have dis­cov­ered that a crit­i­cal protein in­ter­leukin1 (IL11) is in fact more im­por­tant than TGFB1 for fi­bro­sis, mak­ing it a bet­ter drug tar­get. This is par­tic­u­larly cru­cial, as pre­vi­ously, treat­ments based on switch­ing off TGFB1 have caused se­vere side ef­fects.

Fi­bro­sis is a very com­mon cause of car­dio­vas­cu­lar and re­nal dis­ease, where ex­ces­sive con­nec­tive tis­sue de­stroys the struc­ture and func­tion of the or­gan with scar tis­sue. Sin­ga­pore­ans in par­tic­u­lar are known to have a higher preva­lence of coro­nary artery dis­ease, hy­per­ten­sion, and di­a­betes. Kid­ney fail­ure is also an epi­demic in Sin­ga­pore and around the world. Fi­bro­sis of the heart and kid­ney can even­tu­ally lead to fail­ure of th­ese crit­i­cal or­gans, mak­ing the dis­cov­ery cru­cial in trans­form­ing the treat­ment of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world.

The team in­volved in the re­search was led by Pro­fes­sor Stu­art Cook along with As­sis­tant

Pro­fes­sor Se­bas­tian Schafer, both from NHCS and Duke-NUS’ Pro­gramme in Car­dio­vas­cu­lar and Meta­bolic Disor­ders. The team also in­cludes re­searchers from Har­vard Univer­sity and Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego/UCSD (USA), Max Del­bruck Cen­ter for Molec­u­lar Medicine/MDC-Ber­lin (Ger­many), Lon­don In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences/ MRC-LMS and Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don (UK) and the Univer­sity of Melbourne (Aus­tralia).

In ad­di­tion the re­search has also spurred the found­ing of a new com­pany in Sin­ga­pore to de­velop ther­a­pies to treat pa­tients with fi­brotic dis­eases. “We are proud to an­nounce that the suite of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty aris­ing from this re­search has been li­censed to a newly launched Sin­ga­pore-funded biotech­nol­ogy startup En­loe­fen Bio Pte Ltd, which is co-founded by Pro­fes­sor Cook and As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor Schafer,” said Pro­fes­sor Thomas Coff­man, Dean of Duke-NUS Med­i­cal School. The ground­break­ing re­search was also pub­lished on­line in the highly cov­eted science jour­nal Na­ture on 13 Novem­ber 2017.

LEFT: Prof Stu­art Cook led the in­ter­na­tional team that pi­o­neered the re­search RIGHT: A sim­pli­fied di­a­gram­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the the­ory be­hind the break­through

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