Zinc may benefit the human liver in ways never expected. According to new research, published in Nature Communications, zinc naturally inhibits the inflammatory and antiviral effects of interferon lambda 3 (IFN-λ3), a protein strongly associated with tissue damage in chronic liver disease. The study from Westmead Institute's Storr Liver Centre in collaboration with the Centre for Virus Research and Kirby Institute provides the first evidence that zinc can act as a potent and specific inhibitor of IFN-λ3 in the context of viral infections such as hepatitis C and influenza.
Zinc Study Findings
In the past decade, research shows different tissues respond distinctly by evoking tightly regulated antiviral responses based on multiple environmental and host factors such as proximity and concentration of antigen, cytokine responsiveness mediated by receptor expression, resident immune cells and genetic background. According to the study authors, "interferon lambdas (IFN-λs, type III interferons), comprising IFN-λ1, 2, 3 and 4 have only recently been recognized as antiviral and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Although IFN-λs are beneficial in response to acute infection, evidence indicates that IFN-λs may drive chronic inflammation and end-organ damage such as hepatic cirrhosis."
Lead author of the study, Dr Scott Read, said, "We have demonstrated that zinc inhibits numerous facets of the liver's immune response to viruses that may be mediated by IFN-λ3. Zinc interferes with IFN-λ3 binding to the interferon lambda receptor, which results in decreased antiviral activity and increased viral replication both in vitro and in vivo.
Read also noted the following study results:
- Zinc also blocks the inflammatory activity of IFN-λ3, which has been strongly linked to accelerated progression to liver cirrhosis in viral and non-viral liver disease.
- The data suggests that serum zinc levels in patients with chronic hepatitis C are genetically predetermined by the IFN-λ3 polymorphism, confirming the inhibitory role of zinc in vivo.
- Study results highlights the potential for zinc to be used as a simple and effective treatment against acute and chronic inflammation in the liver.
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