Our researchers are revealing how inflammation is controlled, and advancing the diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory diseases.
Our researchers seek to understand how inflammation is controlled in health and disease. To do this they are investigating:
The goal of our inflammation research is to advance strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent inflammatory diseases including:
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection, disease and tissue damage. Inflammation is driven by immune cells, and also serves to heighten the immune response.
Features of inflamed tissues include:
These symptoms of inflammation serve several important functions:
Inflammation can be acute, meaning it is rapidly resolved, or chronic, meaning it can persist for years.
Inflammation can have a variety of triggers including:
Inflammation begins with innate immune cells, such as neutrophils, being alerted to the trigger. This may be because damaged tissue has released ‘alert’ signals, or because the immune cell has detected microbial molecules such as bacterial cell wall components.
When activated, innate immune cells can immediately release a variety of inflammatory substances. These substances trigger the features of inflammation in nearby tissue, protecting the site and attracting an influx of additional immune cells. Different immune cell types, and inflammatory mediators are detected in acute and chronic inflammation.
Inflammatory mediators are typically short-lived. This serves to limit the duration of an inflammatory response. As soon as the trigger is removed, inflammation will normally diminish, preventing tissue damage.
Our research into how cells die has revealed that many of the molecules contributing to cell death have dual roles in inflammation, or are closely related to molecules functioning in inflammatory pathways.
Some types of cell death trigger inflammation. This ensures that the abnormal death of cells alerts immune cells to a potentially dangerous situation.
Inflammation is an important component of the innate immune response, which is the body’s first line of defense against infection. Inflammatory mediators enhance the responses of immune cells to potential infections, by:
Inflammation is important for the generation of protective immunological memory. This ensures that repeat exposures to a microbe are rapidly dealt with by established immune cells that recognise the infectious agent.
Most vaccines include substances that trigger inflammation. These contribute to better immune responses, and longer-lasting immune protection.
Excessive or ongoing inflammation can cause pain and tissue damage, and prevent the normal functioning of the body’s organs.
Short-term, acute inflammation can be responsible for many of the symptoms of infections. These symptoms, such as fever, tend to assist the immune clearance of infection. Excessive or misplaced acute inflammation can cause severe illness or death.
Chronic inflammation is also associated with many diseases. Approximately one in three Australians has a chronic inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis. These diseases place a significant social and economic burden on the community.
Chronic inflammation is triggered by ongoing immune responses. These immune responses can be against:
In some conditions, such as rheumatic fever, inflammation begins in response to an infection by Streptococcus bacteria, but is redirected later to heart tissue, causing damage.
In many inflammatory diseases, symptoms can be greatly reduced in the short term by appropriate treatment. These include:
Compressing, immobilising and cooling the inflamed area can also improve the symptoms of inflammation, but do not eliminate the underlying cause of the inflammation.