BBC Radio 4 Frontiers 20 October 2004
Abstract from BBC Website
As medical researchers delve deeper into the causes of major diseases as diverse as heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimers disease and cancer, they are beginning to see the same biological signature turn up again and again: inflammation.
Could this pave the way to a radical new approach to the treatment of chronic diseases?
The familiar immune response that causes the redness swelling and pain if you cut a finger, is a vital process in the first line of defence against disease .
But as Peter Evans discovers in the first of a new series of Frontiers, when this inflammatory process gets out of control, it enables disease to persist indefinitely – and could be an underlying cause of many diseases in diverse parts of the body.
Why is it for instance, that half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels? It's an extraordinary little publicised statistic. But as Paul Ridker's research at Harvard reveals, in many cases inflammation is at the root cause of triggering blood clots that cut off the coronary blood supply.
It's causing researchers to reassess patients' risk factors and treatments in this and a host of apparently unrelated diseases.
From new research into the events that initiate and drive unwanted inflammation to radical approaches to curtailing it, Frontiers assesses the major impact that these new insights could have on completely rethinking how we treat some of our most challenging diseases.