Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A new strategy to fight some viruses

From The Guardian article Immune discovery opens up new line of attack against viruses:
"In a series of experiments, James's group found that in many cases, antibodies do very little to stop viruses from infecting cells. Instead, the antibodies cling to the viruses when they invade cells and use the cells' own biological machinery to kill the virus.

James showed that once inside an infected cell, antibodies attract a protein called TRIM21. This in turn signals to the cell's equivalent of a waste disposal machine, a large cluster of proteins called a proteasome. When the proteasome arrives, it latches on to TRIM21 and goes to work, dismantling the virus piece by piece. The process happens quickly, and often before the virus has a chance to cause harm.

The discovery, which is reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could pave the way for a new generation of antiviral drugs that fight infections by supercharging the body's own defences.

Future treatments based on James's work are only expected to work against a class of viruses that do not shed their protein coats when they invade healthy cells. Those that do would leave the attached antibodies outside the cells, and so not trigger the cell's own immune attack.

James's team has already begun investigating how to turn the finding into new drugs. Tests on cells in the laboratory show that administering TRIM21 boosts resistance to infection, presumably by bolstering the natural immune attack."

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