Recent research has yielded many interesting and potentially important therapeutic targets in sepsis. Specifically, the effects of antagonistic anti-cytokine therapies (tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF-α], interleukin-1 [IL-1]) and anti-endotoxin strategies utilizing antibodies against endotoxin or endotoxin receptor/carrier molecules (anti-CD14 or anti-LPS-binding protein) have been studied. Unfortunately, these approaches often failed clinically, and in many cases, the efficacy of these treatments was dependent on the severity of sepsis. Recently, clinical trials using insulin to lock blood glucose levels and activated protein C treatment have showed that while they provided some survival benefit, their efficacy does not appear to be predicated solely upon anti-inflammatory effects. Here, we will review work done in animal models of polymicrobial sepsis and clinical findings that support the hypothesis that apoptosis in the immune system is a pathologic event in sepsis that can be a therapeutic target. In this respect, experimental studies looking at the septic animal suggest that loss of lymphocytes during sepsis may be due to dysregulated apoptosis and that this appears to be brought on by a variety of mediators effecting ‘intrinsic’ as well as ‘extrinsic’ cell death pathways. From a therapeutic perspective this has provided a number of novel targets for clinically successful current, as well as future therapies, such as caspases (caspase inhibition/protease inhibition), proapoptotic protein-expression (via administration and/or over-expression of Bcl-2) and the death receptor family Fas-FasL (via. FasFP [fas fusion protein] and the application of siRNA against a number pro-apoptotic factors).
Keywords: Sepsis, mice, human, apoptosis, death-receptor pathway, mitochondrial pathway, organ dysfunction