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Research shows promise for anti-fever drugs

Researchers in the US have revealed findings that a tiny spot in the brain triggers fever in mice. Should this prove to be the same action that takes place in the human brain; it may lead to more specific drugs to control fever and other illnesses in humans.

Researchers in the US have revealed findings that a tiny spot in the brain triggers fever in mice. Should this prove to be the same action that takes place in the human brain; it may lead to more specific drugs to control fever and other illnesses in humans.

When a person is ill, white blood cells send chemical signals called cytokines to marshal defences in the body. These messengers tell blood vessels in the brain to produce a second hormone called prostaglandin E2.

Prostaglandin E2 is known to act on the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that controls basic functions such as eating, drinking, sex and body temperature.

Dr Clifford Saper of Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, undertook a study to ascertain which specific nerve cells in the brain generate fever. To do this, he and his team used special laboratory mice and systematically eliminated genes for specific EP3 receptors - a part of the brain that picks up on the prostaglandin E2 hormone.

Many cells in the brain make EP3 receptors, which Saper thinks may trigger other symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and fatigue associated with infection.

The study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, showed that if you take the EP3 receptor out of one particular site - approximately the size of a pin-head, there is no longer a fever response.

Knowing how to find and eliminate receptors linked with fever could very well lead to the development of highly specific drugs that act on a specific receptor, as well as drugs to prevent loss of appetite or fatigue associated with infections.

"Knowing which circuits are involved in each of these things means you may ultimately be able to manipulate those circuits with drugs," Saper said.

6th August 2007

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