Charting the Pathways of Inflammation

A common thread connecting many diseases holds promise as a therapeutic target.

When the human body detects a threat, it raises an army of immune system cells and molecules that create an inflammatory response in defense. Because so many health conditions trigger that process, inflammation is a symptom common to a wide variety of diseases. Although inflammation is often a sign of a normal, well-functioning immune system, it can also spin out of control and lead to serious problems.

The IRP’s squadron of leading immunologists, rheumatologists, cancer biologists, and infectious disease experts, which includes ten members of the National Academy of Sciences, places it in a unique position to make significant contributions to the understanding and treatment of inflammatory conditions. Over 200 IRP laboratories in multiple NIH Institutes and Centers pursue basic, translational, and clinical research on the immune system in order to identify the relationship between inflammation and conditions like allergies, infections, autoimmune diseases, cancer, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers in the IRP have made many important contributions to this field, such as discovering numerous molecules that control immune function and induce inflammation, developing treatments for inflammation-related organ damage, identifying inflammatory markers that could be used to predict future disease, and creating approaches to curb stroke-induced inflammation in the brain.

To assist cooperation among the many IRP researchers studying inflammation and the immune system, the NIH recently established the Center for Human Immunology, Autoimmunity, and Inflammation. The Center aims to facilitate research partnerships that will unravel the mysteries of the immune system and provides IRP investigators with access to a wide array of technologies that would be difficult to host in individual laboratories.

The IRP continues to martial its technological resources and world-class expertise to further human understanding of inflammation and the immune system by:

  • Examining the behavior of immune cells and the chemicals they produce
  • Searching for genes related to immune function and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions
  • Identifying shared physiological processes among the many diseases in which inflammation is believed to play a role

Explore these pages for more information about the past, present, and future of IRP research on inflammation:

Check out all 12 of the domains in which we are Accelerating Science to learn about how IRP scientists are tackling important biomedical challenges.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, January 12, 2022