Protein linked with inflammatory diseases

Sept. 16, 2008 at 1:41 PM

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. biology professor says he's found a connection between the cellular innate immunity network and chronic inflammatory diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

Virginia Tech Associate Professor Liwu Li says his finding presents a viable cellular and molecular target for diagnosis and treatment of all neurodegenerative diseases.

Li's group has defined a key cellular protein kinase named interlukin-1 receptor associated kinase 1, or IRAK-1, that's critical for processing diverse inflammatory signals, including microbial products, cytokines, and insulin.

Li discovered excessive IRAK-1 activation is linked with the risk of atherosclerosis and diabetes. Using transgenic mice without the IRAK-1 gene, Li's group demonstrated that IRAK-1 deficient mice are protected from developing atherosclerosis and insulin resistance.

Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. filed a patent application for Li's discovery and its use as a diagnostic tool and treatment strategy.

"This technology will still take some time before there is a product," Li said.

The most recent publication from Li's group appears in the journal Molecular Immunology.

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