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Molecule offers focus for taming inflammation

Memphis, Tennessee, September 12, 2019

Researchers in white lab coats stand in the laboratory and discuss findings of a paper.

Left to right: Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Immunology, with postdoctoral fellows Kesavardhana Sannula, Ph.D. and Parimal Samir, Ph.D. The St. Jude researchers have identified an enzyme that, when mutated, is involved in a variety of cancers, such as those of the breast, lung and brain, including medulloblastoma, the most common malignant pediatric brain tumor.

Cells are bombarded with a dizzying array of stimuli. St. Jude researchers have found a molecule that helps cells respond to that info.

The molecule is DDX3X. Scientists showed for the first time that DDX3X helps decide the fate of immune cells.

If DDX3X is available, stressed cells can form compartments that help them survive or that activate a cell-death pathway. The choice helps regulate the immune system, including inflammation.  DDX3X might also offer a new way of treating autoinflammatory diseases. Those disorders play a role in some of the leading killers of the modern era, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

“The findings make DDX3X an attractive target for designing drugs to modify the stress response to restore balance to prevent chronic inflammation and other diseases,” said Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Immunology.

The journal Nature published a report on this work.

Read the full News Release.

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