You bump your elbow, it swells and gets red, then it hurts. Your body dispatches white blood cells to release chemicals that promote wound healing and protect against infection. These are signs of inflammation, the body’s defense against outside dangers.

Inflammation starts with inflammasomes, large protein complexes that assemble in response to pathogens or danger signals in a cell. These complexes activate additional signals that ultimately lead to an inflammatory response. When overactive, they can cause chronic inflammation, resulting in the tissue damage found in a number of diseases.

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