Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have received a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to continue their work examining the role of the protein interleukin-6, or IL-6, in resuscitation after trauma and hemorrhagic shock.

"In a rat model of trauma and hemorrhagic shock, we found that giving IL-6 intravenously reduced mortality in the animals by 80 percent," said Dr. David Tweardy, chief of the section of infectious diseases at BCM and principal investigator of the study. "This grant will allow us to examine the effectiveness of IL-6 in other animal models that involve different types of trauma, including abdominal injury and femur fracture."

In the animals that received IL-6 during resuscitation, major organs were not as damaged because the IL-6 protected the cells within them.

"The IL-6 helped the cells survive injury and that helped the animal survive," said Tweardy.

STAT3 promotes cell survival

Tweardy and his colleagues then found that the IL-6 activated a molecule called STAT3 within the cells. STAT3 promotes cell survival by protecting them against stress.

Because traumatic injury is the leading cause of death in people younger than 45 in the United States, the research could have significant potential benefits. It could also benefit soldiers injured on patrol or on the battlefield, said Tweardy.

If the studies are successful, the next step would be for Tweardy and his colleagues to study the effect of IL-6 administration in patients suffering traumatic injuries requiring admission to the Harris County Hospital District’s Ben Taub General Hospital.

Ben Taub: management paradigm

"There is no place in the world where the potential benefits of this intervention can be better examined than at Ben Taub Hospital," said Tweardy. "The outstanding research in trauma and shock led by Dr. Kenneth Mattox has created a management paradigm that’s an ideal setting to test IL-6 in patients."

"Understanding the impact of inflammatory mediators is a major advance in the management of trauma patients. IL-6 is one of the important mediators impacting trauma outcomes. This is yet another example of how basic and translational research results in advances in medical treatments," said Dr. Kenneth Mattox, professor of surgery at BCM and chief of staff at Ben Taub Hospital.

This research and development project is conducted by Baylor College of Medicine and is made possible by a contract that was awarded and administered by the U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command (USAMRMC) and the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), at Fort Detrick, MD, under Contract Number: W81XWH1120018.