Scientists find new way to mobilize immune system against viruses

May 12, 2014
New research could help in the fight against viral pandemics such as the 2002 SARS outbreak, which led many to wear surgical masks. Credit: Kurt Groetsch, Flickr.

University of British Columbia scientists have uncovered an intricate chain reaction in the body's immune system and have used the knowledge to develop a new treatment against harmful viruses.

Viral pandemics, such as the coronavirus that caused the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002, have caused hundreds of deaths in Canada, yet effective anti-viral drugs are rare.

A key element to this natural immune response is an antiviral protein in the blood called Interferon alpha. Like soldiers, Interferon alpha is quickly deployed by the body to fight viruses and removed just as quickly to restore equilibrium.

As described in the current issue of the prestigious journal Nature Medicine, a team led by Overall from UBC's Department of Oral Biological and Medical Sciences and Bruce McManus from UBC's Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine has discovered that an enzyme called MMP12 serves double-duty in the deployment of the critical antiviral protein: it first enters the infected cell to activate Interferon alpha and then sends it outside the to fight viruses. After the job of Interferon alpha is done, MMP12 dissolves the protein during the healing process.

Overall has developed a new antiviral drug that blocks MMP12 from dissolving Interferon alpha outside the cell, giving the an added boost by keeping levels of the protein high in the bloodstream. The drug cannot penetrate cell membranes, making it unable to interfere with the beneficial work inside the cell. The drug has been shown to effectively treat viral infections in mice models and holds promise as a new broad-spectrum antiviral treatment.

"Because the drug isn't virus-strain specific and boosts the body's own to fight infections, it could be effective for even emergent, unknown viruses and eliminate the lag time required to first identify and sequence the virus genetic material before we can treat it," says Overall.

Explore further: Potent mechanism helps viruses shut down body's defense system against infection

More information: Paper: www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop … 3508.html#affil-auth

Related Stories

Potent mechanism helps viruses shut down body's defense system against infection

August 14, 2013
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered a powerful mechanism by which viruses such as influenza, West Nile and Dengue evade the body's immune response and infect humans with these potentially ...

Researchers discover possible new target to attack flu virus

April 10, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered that a protein produced by the influenza A virus helps it outwit one of our body's natural defense mechanisms. That makes the protein a potentially ...

Study identifies protein essential for immune recognition, response to viral infection

November 24, 2013
A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-led research team has identified an immune cell protein that is critical to setting off the body's initial response against viral infection. The report that will be published in an upcoming ...

Timing, duration of biochemical bugle call critical for fighting viruses

June 13, 2012
Researchers have identified the primary player of the biochemical bugle call that musters the body's defenders against viral infection.

Study reveals natural process that blocks viruses

April 17, 2013
The human body has the ability to ward off viruses by activating a naturally occurring protein at the cellular level, setting off a chain reaction that disrupts the levels of cholesterol required in cell membranes to enable ...

Newly identified natural protein blocks HIV, other deadly viruses

February 11, 2013
A team of UCLA-led researchers has identified a protein with broad virus-fighting properties that potentially could be used as a weapon against deadly human pathogenic viruses such as HIV, Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, Nipah ...

Recommended for you

Accounting for human immune diversity increases clinical relevance of fundamental immunological research

July 26, 2017
Mouse models have advanced our understanding of immune function and disease in many ways but they have failed to account for the natural diversity in human immune responses. As a result, insights gained in the lab may be ...

Study sheds light on how body may detect early signs of cancer

July 26, 2017
Fresh insights into how cells detect damage to their DNA - a hallmark of cancer - could help explain how the body keeps disease in check.

How genetically engineered viruses develop into effective vaccines

July 26, 2017
Lentiviral vectors are virus particles that can be used as a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to fight against specific pathogens. The vectors are derived from HIV, rendered non-pathogenic, and then engineered to carry ...

Does your child really have a food allergy?

July 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many people misunderstand what food allergies are, and even doctors can be confused about how to best diagnose them, suggests a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.