Experts at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and Brighton Musculoskeletal Research Centre believe they are on the road to identifying the mechanism that causes the process, a breakthrough that they hope will lead to new, more effective medications.
The research is led by Professor Pietro Ghezzi, RM Phillips Chair in Experimental Medicine at BSMS which is jointly run by the universities of Brighton and Sussex. His findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Ghezzi said: "We have discovered a process by which proteins normally present in the body can be oxidized and become a trigger for inflammatory diseases.
"In pathological conditions, a protein called Prdx2 becomes oxidized and is released from the cell. When it is released, Prdx2 is recognised by the immune system as a signal of tissue injury and triggers an inflammatory response."
The research group has identified this protein using a technology called 'redox proteomics', in collaboration with scientists at the universities of Greifswald, Rome, Rouen and Stanford.
Professor Ghezzi said: "Our finding could provide a link between oxidative stress, present in many human diseases, and inflammation.
"Inflammation is one of the mechanisms by which these diseases cause damage to the body, and identifying what triggers it is essential for designing new drugs."
Redox proteomics is a technique by which one can take a snapshot of those proteins that are targeted by oxidative stress. The Brighton study has identified several proteins, Prdx2 is one of them, whose levels in blood could predict the presence of oxidative stress in inflammatory diseases.