Inflammation acts as the body’s alarm system during infection and injury, and it plays an essential role in the body’s healing processes. For example, when you sprain your ankle, it swells up and is painful; this process helps to limit your movement so that the body can carry out essential repair processes. Inflammation also responds to other health disruptions triggered by genetic and/or environmental changes.

However, an imbalance between immune cell activation and its control can cause excessive inflammation leading to inappropriate attempts by the body to repair specific tissues, leading to acute and chronic diseases.

Dysregulated inflammation lies at the heart of many human diseases, resulting in pain, loss of normal body functions and disease progression.

These include diseases of the:

  • gastrointestinal tract (e.g. inflammatory bowel diseases, IBD)
  • liver (e.g. non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, NASH)
  • bone and joints (e.g. rheumatoid and osteoarthritis)
  • respiratory tract (e.g. asthma)
  • brain and spinal chord (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
  • metabolic and cardiovascular systems (e.g. type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis)
  • skin (e.g. dermatitis, psoriasis)
  • multiple organs (e.g. cancer, sepsis, lupus).

IMB Centre for Inflammation and Disease Research (CIDR) scientists are dedicated to investigating inflammation and developing diagnostics and treatments for inflammation-related diseases. Inflammation affects us all during our lifetimes; the resulting healthcare burden is huge, and is still growing, due to lifestyle choices and our ageing population. For example:

  • 61,000 Australians are estimated to have IBD
  • 28% of Australians have arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. That’s around 6.1 million people
  • Approximately 10% of the population has asthma. That’s 2 million people
  • In 2004-05 health expenditure due to asthma was $606 million
  • The health costs of treating liver disease in 2012 were estimated as $432 million
  • 3.4 million or 1 in 6 Australians had cardiovascular disease in 2007–08
  • The estimated total number of new cancers diagnosed in 2012 was 120,710.

Sourced from: The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Asthma Australia, IBD Support Australia, Hepatitis Australia, Gastroenterological Society of Australia. 

What is inflammation