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Given that a pandemic is currently ravaging the world, many people have sought out new ways to protect themselves. There are of course the obvious answers like washing our hands and covering our mouths with a mask, but a quick Google search will show that there has also been an uptick in the number of people searching how to boost their immune systems. As sensible as this may seem, though, it probably won’t prove to be the most effective form of prevention. This is because our immune system is made up of two different systems—the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
Our innate immune system is made up of physical barriers and chemical responses that prevent illnesses from breaking into and traveling through our bodies. Think of this as the first line of defense, keeping diseases at bay. The adaptive immune system is responsible for attacking specific pathogens, such as the novel coronavirus. So, to boost your immune system as a whole, you would have to target a whole range of different cells and chemical responses. This isn’t to say that staying healthy by exercising and eating well are ineffective, just that you shouldn’t put too much faith in a leafy-green smoothie and a jog to protect you from the virus.
Instead, scientists are looking into some of the more detailed aspects of the immune system to see how they can help people’s bodies fight off illness. One, in particular, is the LL-37 peptide. Although it is only made up of a small chain of amino acids, LL-37 has an exceptional role as an antimicrobial peptide and immune system regulator that is present in a majority of the innate immune system. For this reason, scientists and medical researchers are interested in seeing how it can be used for other applications such as an anti-inflammatory and preventative medicine for autoimmune disorders.
This is interesting because, in their research, scientists have found the LL-37 has a dual inflammatory and anti-inflammatory property. This is because it acts as a sort of toll gate. Depending on the cell it comes into contact with, LL-37 might cause an inflammatory response to destroy a pathogen or trigger an anti-inflammatory response to help reduce damage to body cells. As they study it more, they believe their research may have shown a lot of promise for helping people who have rheumatoid arthritis.
This is not only because of LL-37’s inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of a couple of different autoimmune disorders with a link to LL-37. The other is psoriasis. In the case of both diseases, researchers have found that patients have higher levels of LL-37. They believe this could be promoting further inflammation and worsening the patients’ symptoms.
As scientists conduct more research in LL-37, they hope to find out more about how LL-37 affects these diseases. Once they better understand its role, they hope to utilize the peptide to fight against autoimmune disorders and inflammation. Currently, they are looking into how it could affect arthritis, atherosclerosis, colitis, and sepsis and hope to use its gatekeeper properties to downregulate autoimmune responses.
Of course, as research is still ongoing, it’s not advisable for anyone to attempt to self-administer this peptide. The full extent of its effects are still uncertain, and as noted above, when introduced to certain cell types, it may cause inflammation. If you would like to know more about the potential for this peptide therapy, we recommend following it closely. As research wraps up, scientists will surely find a beneficial use for LL-37 as a cure for autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammation.