Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Zinc 'keeps immune system in check'

News Brief by Julianna Ko

Zinc is commonly used as household remedy to treat the onset of colds, and researchers at Ohio State University recently pinpointed the role of zinc to immune system regulation. The immune system typically responds to infection through inflammation, but the body runs the risk of adversely impacting its own processes if the inflammatory response goes unchecked. In diseases such as sepsis, for instance, the immune system responds excessively to a bacterial infection, leading to fatal symptoms linked to whole body inflammation.

After discovering that zinc-deficiency is correlated with overinflammation, the researchers at Ohio State discovered that zinc could play a role in controlling the immune system response by negatively regulating the Nf-kB inflammatory pathway. When the pathway is activated during infection, the protein Nf-kB recruits zinc to immune cells where the mineral can keep the immune response under control by slowing down the inflammatory response.

Researchers at University of Aberdeen have also discovered similar interactions between zinc and the Nf-kB pathway in other diseases such as atherosclerosis, providing a possible explanatory mechanism for zinc’s ability to treat colds.

Reference: "Zinc 'keeps immune system in check'." BBC News 08 Feb 2013, Health. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. . .

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