NOTE: Magnesium sulfate is also known as epsom salts, which many autism parents have known and loved for years for its calming and helpful effects on our kids.  It's great to see research being done into its effects on inflammation!

A new study published Thursday in The Journal of Immunology suggests that magnesium sulfate, used to treat preeclampsia in preterm labor, may also decrease inflammation and become a therapy for inflammatory diseases.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine recently discovered the mechanism by which magnesium reduces the production of cytokines. Cytokines are molecules responsible for regulating inflammation; they play a key in role conditions such as diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, asthma, and alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. Although the study was related to pregnancy, inflammation is the culprit of many conditions and learning more about individual's magnesium levels may help a much broader patient population.

In a study published in The Journal of Immunology, the laboratories of Helene Bernstein, MD, PhD, and Andrea Romani, MD, PhD, reported that magnesium decreases inflammation by reducing the activity of cells' primary protein, Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NF-kB), and the subsequent production of cytokines. This new insight offers a promising new immunotherapeutic strategy by which a simple nutrient, known to be safe based on its extensive usage in obstetric settings, can decrease inflammation in diseases other than pregnancy, including sepsis, respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes and cancer. The cost of all of these diseases in the United States exceeds $200 billion annually.

"The concept that [magnesium] decreases inflammation is exciting and relevant to other diseases. Now that we understand how magnesium functions, we can figure out how to make it work even better," says Dr. Bernstein, associate professor of reproductive biology and molecular biology and microbiology, Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, OB/GYN at University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital, and senior author of the study.

The physician-scientists are now examining how magnesium could be used therapeutically, looking at factors including dosage, timing, frequency, and delivery method. Further research is needed to pinpoint magnesium sulfate's broader applicability.

"A significant gap still exists when our knowledge about magnesium is compared to that of calcium, sodium, potassium, or hydrogen. As efforts continue to elucidate magnesium regulation and effects, more effective 'therapeutic approaches' will become applicable to patient health care," says Andrea Romani, MD, PhD, associate professor of physiology and biophysics, Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and first author of the study.

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