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Sepsis is a complex, serious condition that affects more than 400,000 people in the US each year. It begins when a bacterial infection produces endotoxins called lipopolysaccharides that bind to endothelial cells lining the insides of blood vessels. This binding causes oxidative stress and an influx of calcium, activating the endothelial cells and increasing the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules. This activation, in turn, kicks off a chain of cellular events in which the normal immune reaction is overstimulated and the immune system attacks the body’s own organs and tissues, culminating in unchecked inflammation. Lung inflammation, a common feature of sepsis, can lead to edema (fluid in the lungs) and possibly death. Sepsis is currently treated with antibiotic therapy, but its efficacy is limited.
Lab Anim. (NY) 42, 73 (2013).
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