Oxygen levels play a critical role in determining the severity of the inflammatory response and ultimately the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs, according to new research from the University of Edinburgh Medical School.

“This report may shed light on why some people respond better to anti-inflammatory drugs than others, and it suggests that a one size fits all strategy to anti-inflammatory drugs may be overly simplistic,” said John Wherry, PhD, Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, which published the study. “This work could be a foundation to identifying ways to tailor anti-inflammatory agents to specifically treat different diseases.”

In the study, researchers isolated neutrophils, the immune cells that are responsible for acute inflammation, from the blood of healthy volunteers and incubated them in different levels of oxygen. After adding substances usually present at sites of inflammation in humans, they found that oxygen levels altered the effectiveness of the drugs, suggesting the medications may be less effective for some diseases than they are for others.