How zinc keeps immune system in check
London, Feb. 9 : The researchers have claimed that they have gained a key insight as to how zinc helps the immune system to fight infection.
They said that the findings of the study could also help explain why taking zinc supplements at the start of a cold can stem its severity, the BBC reported.
It is believed that the finding could have implications for other diseases as well.
Although studies have highlighted the importance of the mineral for the immune system, as it has many complex roles in the body it is not understood how it helps fight off infection.
After previous studies on mice, Ohio State University researchers showed that zinc-deficiency could lead to excessive inflammation.
This is what happens in sepsis, when in response to a severe infection, the body goes into overdrive, with potentially fatal consequences.
Through further experiments, they found that a protein called NF-kB lured zinc into the immune cells, which responded fastest to fight infection.
Once inside, the mineral then puts brakes on further activity in the NF-kB pathway, slowing down the immune response and limiting the amount of inflammation.
According to the researchers, it was effectively a feedback loop, stopping the process getting out of hand.
The study has been published in Cell Reports.