11:20am Tuesday 10 December 2019

Cobalt ions found to trigger the body’s immune system

Research led by Newcastle University has revealed that cobalt ions can activate a crucial component of the body’s innate immune system – known as Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4).

Mistaking the minute metal particles for bacteria, the white blood cells attack, secreting chemicals that can cause inflammatory lesions, termed pseudotumours, around the joint.

Like most immune responses, TLR4 activation varies between individuals which may explain why some patients have reacted more severely than others to the MoM replacement hips. This reaction by the body has led to some MoM hip replacements having to be removed.

Publishing their findings online today in the academic journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, the team from Newcastle University and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, say the research provides the first explanation for the chronic inflammation and tissue damage that is seen in some patients with failed MoM joints.

“Until now we haven’t really understood the biological process of why this was happening,” explains Dr Alison Tyson-Capper, a Senior Lecturer and Molecular Biologist at Newcastle University who led the research together with John Kirby, a Professor of Immunobiology at Newcastle University.

“Although it’s still early days with this research programme,” says Dr Tyson-Capper, “our study shows for the first time the cellular mechanism as to how metal ions, in this case cobalt, can induce inflammation and this may explain why some patients react more severely than others to the MoM joints. TLR4 activation is driven by our genes and varies between individuals, so pseudotumour formation and subsequent joint failure will be different for every patient.”

Professor John Kirby, Professor of Immunobiology, adds: “The next step will be to find a way to match patients to specific prosthetic materials and consider therapeutic intervention designed to dampen down the inflammatory pathways activated by metal ions.”

Key Facts:

  • Newcastle University is a Russell Group University
  • We rank in the top 20 of UK universities in The Sunday Times 2013 University Guide
  • Amongst our peers Newcastle is:
    • 10th in the UK for student satisfaction
    • In the UK’s top 12 for research power in Science and Engineering
  • 93% of our students are in a job or further training within six months of graduating (HEFCE 2012)
  • We have a world-class reputation for research excellence and are spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society. These themes are: Ageing and Health, Sustainability, and Social Renewal
  • Newcastle University is the first UK university to establish a fully owned international branch campus for medicine at its NUMed Campus in Malaysia which opened in 2011
  • Our International students put Newcastle University in world’s top 12 (ISB 2011)

Share on:

MORE FROM Immune System

Health news