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Hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from injury and millions more are hospitalized, at an annual cost to society of more than $200 billion. People who survive serious injuries caused by burns or trauma face a long and difficult recovery period riddled with many potentially fatal complications along the way. Researchers yearn to understand the critical features that can tip the delicate balance of a severely injured body toward recovery, and those factors that cause people to die from such injuries. Identifying those factors could help guide physicians to choose the best treatment in response to a life-threatening injury.
Scientists know that one common thread in a body's
reaction to a traumatic injury is inflammation. This seemingly harmless process is a necessary defense mechanism to
guard against infection and help heal injury, but it can also turn
into a deadly
cascade of events. Excessive inflammation can lead to the body-wide
response called sepsis,
an unfortunately common but fatal outcome of
severe burns or trauma.