Of Mice and Men

Dr. Molly Hill and undergraduate students Damaris Brisco and Karen Reynolds spent their summer studying the effects of acute bacterial infections and septic shock, which are significant health problems in the U.S. today.

Septic shock is currently the most common cause of patient death in intensive care units across the U.S. It is reported that one-half of septic shock cases are fatal.

Little progress has been made in recent years to develop new therapies that would reduce the incidence and mortality.

Low blood pressure, poor organ perfusion and sever systemic metabolic derangement characterize septic shock. During sepsis, bacteria induce white blood cells to release large amounts of inflammatory hormones, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and IL-1 (among others).

The overproduction of TNF causes the symptoms that lead to death in these patients. Developing treatments that regulate the TNF production during sepsis would increase the survival rate of septic patients.

The recent discovery of a new family of nuclear steroid receptors, the peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs), has opened an avenue for the pursuit of new approaches in the treatment of septic shock, as well as other acute and chronic forms of inflammation.

There is evidence that the PPAR a suppresses the expression of TNF and, therefore, may play a critical role in modulating the production of TNF during the host response to acute bacterial infections and inflammation.

"We are examining the role of PPARs in the regulation of TNF in mice during acute inflammation. By using a strain of mice that lacks the PPAR a gene and drugs that activate PPARs, we can dissect the role of PPARs during acute bacterial infection," Dr. Hill said.

Dr. Hill was one of the first Oklahoma Christian professors to receive a research grant, working with funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.