Sepsis is one of the most frequent causes of death worldwide, including in Austria and Germany. Depending on the stage of the illness, between 25% and 60% of patients die despite receiving the maximum available treatment. In cases of sepsis, the human immune system produces a hyperinflammatory response to an infection that has entered the blood stream, and this overreaction can lead to cardiovascular failure. This hyperinflammation is followed by immunosuppression – an attempt initiated by the immune system itself to counter this overreaction. Due to the reduced attentiveness of the immune system, many patients die from serious secondary infections during this phase. Owing to the complex progression of the disease, available sepsis therapies focus predominantly on tackling symptoms and are unfortunately ineffective in many cases.
Peptides that modulate immune responses are currently regarded as promising new drug candidates for the treatment of sepsis. In this project, we aimed to develop and test new peptides that neutralise TRAIL/TNFSF10, one of the key immune regulators. Animal studies had suggested that inactivation of TRAIL/TNFSF10 is likely to reduce morbidity and mortality among patients suffering from sepsis. In addition, a gender- and cell-culture-based model for human sepsis was created, meaning that gender-specific differences (e. g. hormone status) could be taken into account when developing and validating potential new sepsis therapies.
The project was funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency under the first call for FEMtech research projects