Professor Michail Sitkovsky, the Eleanor M. Black Chair of Immunophysiology and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and the Director of the New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute recently published an article entitled “Purinergic Signaling During Inflammation” in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (for a copy, please click on this link: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1205750)
While everyone else was studying the effects of intracellular ATP or intracellular adenosine, a small field of scientists, including Dr. Sitkovsky, was studying extracellular ATP and extracellular adenosine. But even after several decades of pharmacological studies and after clinical applications of drugs that target extracellular nucleotides, there was still a failure to explain the molecular mechanisms which govern the effects of extracellular ATP and adenosine on their receptors on the surface of many different types of cells.
The authors of this paper were honored by the invitation to write this review because these authors contributed to the breakthrough discoveries of the physiological mechanism which employs purinergic receptors for extracellular ATP and adenosine. It is expected that this field will grow, and judging from requests for copies of the paper, it has had a big impact already. Dr. Sitkovsky uncovered the unexpected physiological basis of what he named “hypoxia adenosinergic immune regulation”. Papers in Nature 2001, Proceedings of National Academy of Science 2006, and Public Library of Science Biology 2005 that were published by Dr. Sitkovsky’s team at the New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute offered medical doctors a conceptually novel way to therapeutically increase inflammatory damage to normal or cancerous tissues. While inflammatory damage sounds negative, paradoxically, increasing inflammatory damage has major medical applications in treating patients with infectious diseases and cancer.