Scientists find new way to kick start immune system in to action against viruses
Scientists from the University of British Columbia have discovered an intricate chain reaction in the body’s immune system, from here they have used knowledge to develop treatment against harmful viruses. Viral pandemics such as the cornavirus that caused the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002, which caused hundreds of deaths worldwide. Yet effective anti-viral drugs for these kinds of cases are very rare.
Antiviral protein in the blood called Interferon Alpha, is a key element in the natural immune response. Like soldiers, Interferon alpha is quickly deployed by the body to fight viruses and it removed just as quickly to restore normality again.
Featured in the current issue of Nature Medicine, a team led by the University of British Columbia department of Oral Biological and Medical Science has discovered an enzyme called MMP12. MMP12 serves two functions in the deployment of the critical antiviral protein; it first enters the infected cell to activate Interferon alpha and then sends it outside of the cell membrane to fight viruses. Once Interferon has fought off the virus, MMP12 dissolves the protein during the healing process.
The team from UBC has developed a new antiviral drug that blocks MMP12 from dissolving Interferon alpha outside the cell. This in turn keeps the immune system healthy by keeping high levels of of protein in the bloodstream. The drug cannot penetrate cell membranes, leaving it unable to interfere with the beneficial work being done inside of the cell. The drugs has shown to be effective in treating viral infections in mice models and holds promise as a new broad spectrum antiviral treatment.
As the drug isn’t a specific virus strain and boosts the body’s own immune response to fight infections., it could emerge as an effective drug to fight against unknown viruses and eliminate the time requires to identify and sequence the virus genetic material before we can treat it.