Scientists at Yale University say they will be able to test a new theory of inflammation and chronic disease as a result of a $10 million grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation. The grant supports the work of immunobiologists Ruslan Medzhitov, Ph.D., and Richard Flavell, Ph.D., who have posed a unifying theory to describe how inflammation can impact the body’s homeostatic control mechanisms to trigger the onset of disease.
“The Blavatnik Family Foundation is committed to the advancement of breakthrough scientific discoveries,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries. “This new theory represents a paradigm shift in the science of chronic diseases and may lead to new prevention strategies, treatments, and even cures for many disorders.”
The healthy human body regulates its own tissues and organs to maintain key physiological variables in a beneficial homeostatic balance. The body even gets some outside help from microbes, or commensal microorganisms, that reside in locations such as the digestive tract and play a part in maintaining core body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep patterns, and a host of metabolic processes needed for fitness and survival.
When infection or tissue damage occurs, the body’s innate immune system activates inflammatory mechanisms that help to combat these dangers and restore a proper balance, at least in the short term. Drs. Medzhitov and Flavell postulate that these same inflammatory mechanisms can have a damaging effect on homeostatic controls, an effect they see as a root cause of many serious health disorders. They plan a detailed study to define the molecular links between inflammation, commensal microorganisms, and chronic disease.
“The Blavatnik Family Foundation’s generous grant will support game-changing research in the field of immunobiology,” noted Robert Alpern, M.D., dean of the Yale School of Medicine. “This work offers a whole new way to look at the causes of many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, asthma and allergies, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. A few years from now, I am optimistic that, as a result of this important research, we will be in a position to develop new therapeutics that can broadly impact human health and quality of life.”