Pathways mediating resolution of inflammation: when enough is too much

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Patients with critical illness, and in particular sepsis, are now recognized to undergo unifying, pathogenic disturbances of immune function. Whilst scientific and therapeutic focus has traditionally been on understanding and modulating the initial pro-inflammatory limb, recent years have witnessed a refocusing on the development and importance of immunosuppressive ‘anti-inflammatory’ pathways. Several mechanisms are known to drive this phenomenon; however, no overriding conceptual framework justifies them. In this article we review the contribution of pro-resolution pathways to this phenotype, describing the observed immune alterations in terms of either a failure of resolution of inflammation or the persistence of pro-resolution processes causing inappropriate ‘injurious resolution’—a novel hypothesis. The dysregulation of key processes in critical illness, including apoptosis of infiltrating neutrophils and their efferocytosis by macrophages, are discussed, along with the emerging role of specialized cell subtypes Gr1+ CD11b+ myeloid-derived suppressor cells and CD4+ CD25+ FoxP3+ T-regulatory cells. Copyright © 2013 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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