Cracking Cortisone: How It Quiets Inflammation

In the ever-evolving landscape of medical research, understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of cortisone’s anti-inflammatory properties emerges as a pivotal milestone. 

Explore the fascinating intricacies of how cortisone orchestrates cellular responses and its promising implications for advancing therapeutic interventions.

Metabolism Reprogramming: How the Body Switches Out of ‘Fight’ Mode

The recent groundbreaking study, conducted by researchers from Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Uniklinikum Erlangen, and Ulm University, sheds new light on the intricate mechanisms governing inflammation regulation and the role of cortisone in orchestrating immune responses. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, illuminate how glucocorticoids, including cortisone, reprogram the metabolism of immune cells, offering insights into the body’s natural ‘brakes’ on inflammation. Additionally, by delving into the molecular intricacies of cortisone’s action, the study unveils a captivating narrative of how the body switches immune cells out of ‘fight’ mode, paving the way for innovative therapeutic strategies aimed at mitigating inflammatory diseases with fewer side effects.

Within the intricate web of immunological responses, the body’s ability to switch immune cells out of ‘fight’ mode holds significant implications for inflammation regulation. Glucocorticoids, like cortisone, act as master regulators, orchestrating molecular events to resolve inflammatory signals. Moreover, studies delve into cortisone’s multifaceted role, including its ability to reprogram cellular metabolism, particularly targeting mitochondria. Furthermore, through redirecting cellular energy flux, cortisone steers immune cells away from hyperactivation, curbing excessive inflammation and restoring immune balance. This interplay unveils insights into inflammation resolution mechanisms, paving the way for targeted therapies.

The Glucocorticoid Cascade: Cortisone’s Role in Immune Regulation

At the core of stress and inflammation response lies the intricate interplay of glucocorticoids, with cortisone serving as a pivotal natural immunosuppressant. Notably, glucocorticoids, including cortisone, modulate various physiological processes, from metabolism to blood pressure. Understandably, their profound impact on curbing excessive inflammation sparks medical intrigue.

However, their profound impact on curbing excessive inflammation sparks medical intrigue. Prof. Gerhard Krönke’s study delves into cortisone’s molecular intricacies, shedding light on its role in immune cell metabolism reprogramming, which is crucial for its anti-inflammatory action.

Mitochondrial Dynamics: Cortisone’s Intricate Mechanisms

A key revelation from the study is the profound influence of cortisone on cellular metabolism, particularly within the mitochondria—the powerhouse of the cell. Glucocorticoids like cortisone orchestrate a remarkable shift in cellular energy utilisation, redirecting resources away from inflammation-promoting pathways towards resolution mechanisms.

This metabolic reprogramming acts as a crucial determinant in switching immune cells out of ‘fight’ mode, effectively dampening the inflammatory response. Moreover, the study offers a deeper understanding of how the body regulates inflammation and opens avenues for the development of targeted anti-inflammatory therapies with improved safety profiles.

Itaconate: A Molecular Mediator of Inflammation Resolution

Finally, central to the study’s findings is the role of itaconate—a tiny molecule with significant implications for inflammation regulation. Produced within the mitochondria of immune cells, itaconate serves as a natural ‘brake’ on inflammation, acting to counterbalance the pro-inflammatory signals. 

However, under conditions of persistent inflammation, the production of itaconate dwindles, perpetuating the inflammatory cascade.

Herein lies the crux of cortisone’s action: by reprogramming mitochondrial function, cortisone ramps up the formation of itaconate. This process restores its anti-inflammatory effect, tipping the balance towards resolution. Additionally, this intricate interplay between cortisone and itaconate unveils a novel avenue for therapeutic interventions aimed at modulating inflammation with precision and efficacy.

Future Perspectives: Advancing Anti-Inflammatory Therapies

The study’s findings not only shed light on cortisone’s intricate mechanisms but also pave the way for future therapeutic innovations. While cortisone and synthetic glucocorticoids have long been mainstays in treating immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, their side effects pose significant challenges. 

By elucidating the molecular pathways underlying cortisone’s action, researchers are now poised to develop novel synthetic compounds that replicate its immunosuppressive effects while mitigating adverse reactions. Moreover, the identification of itaconate as a key mediator offers new avenues for targeted drug development. This is aimed at modulating inflammation with greater precision and fewer side effects. Through continued research and innovation, the quest for safer and more effective anti-inflammatory therapies remains a top priority, offering hope for millions grappling with chronic inflammatory conditions.

Illuminating the Path Forward in Inflammation Research

The study thoroughly examines the intricate molecular mechanisms through which cortisone exerts its potent anti-inflammatory effects. It sheds light on the role of cortisone in reprogramming cellular metabolism and modulating itaconate production. These findings offer valuable insights into the body’s innate regulatory processes. Moreover, they pave the way for the development of targeted therapies with enhanced efficacy and reduced side effects.

As the field of inflammation research continues to evolve, these discoveries herald a new era of precision medicine. They enable therapeutic interventions tailored to individual patients with greater precision and efficacy. With ongoing efforts aimed at translating these discoveries into clinical applications, the future holds promise for novel treatments. After all, these treatments have the potential to alleviate the burden of chronic inflammatory diseases and improve patients’ quality of life.


  1. Auger, J., Zimmermann, M., Faas, M., Stifel, U., Chambers, D., Krishnacoumar, B., Taudte, R. V., Grund, C., Erdmann, G., Scholtysek, C., Uderhardt, S., Brahim, O. B., Maté, M. P., Stoll, C., Böttcher, M., Palumbo‐Zerr, K., Mangan, M., Dzamukova, M., Kieler, M., . . . Krönke, G. (2024, April 10). Metabolic rewiring promotes anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids. Nature.
  2. How the body switches out of “fight” mode. (2024, April 24). ScienceDaily.
  3. Newton, R. (2000, July 1). Molecular mechanisms of glucocorticoid action: what is important? Thorax.
  4. Rhen, T., & Cidlowski, J. A. (2005, October 20). Antiinflammatory Action of Glucocorticoids — New Mechanisms for Old Drugs. New England Journal of Medicine, 353(16), 1711–1723.
  5. Vandevyver, S., Dejager, L., Tuckermann, J., & Libert, C. (2013, March 1). New Insights into the Anti-inflammatory Mechanisms of Glucocorticoids: An Emerging Role for Glucocorticoid-Receptor-Mediated Transactivation. Endocrinology, 154(3), 993–1007.
  6. Van Looveren, K., Timmermans, S., Vanderhaeghen, T., Wallaeys, C., Ballegeer, M., Souffriau, J., Eggermont, M., Vandewalle, J., Van Wyngene, L., De Bosscher, K., & Libert, C. (2020, May 8). Glucocorticoids limit lipopolysaccharide‐induced lethal inflammation by a double control system. EMBO Reports, 21(7).
  7. Lampropoulou, V., Sergushichev, A., Bambouskova, M., Nair, S., Vincent, E., Loginicheva, E., Cervantes-Barragan, L., Ma, X., Huang, S. C., Griss, T., Weinheimer, C., Khader, S., Randolph, G., Pearce, E., Jones, R., Diwan, A., Diamond, M., & Artyomov, M. (2016, July). Itaconate Links Inhibition of Succinate Dehydrogenase with Macrophage Metabolic Remodeling and Regulation of Inflammation. Cell Metabolism, 24(1), 158–166.

Share via

Also worth reading

People also read:

Fast Facts About Astigmatism

Introduction Astigmatism is one of the four most common refractive error (errors resulting from inability of the eye to clearly focus the images from the outside

Read More »