Scientists find new way to mobilize immune system against viruses

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 cell membrane 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 immune system 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 immune response 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.

A new transcriptional role for matrix metalloproteinase-12 in antiviral immunity.
David J Marchant, Caroline L Bellac, Theo J Moraes, Samuel J Wadsworth, Antoine Dufour, Georgina S Butler, Leanne M Bilawchuk, Reid G Hendry, A Gordon Robertson, Caroline T Cheung, Julie Ng, Lisa Ang, Zongshu Luo, Karl Heilbron, Michael J Norris, Wenming Duan, Taylor Bucyk, Andrei Karpov, Laurent Devel, Dimitris Georgiadis, Richard G Hegele, Honglin Luo, David J Granville, Vincent Dive, Bruce M McManus & Christopher M Overall.
Nature Medicine (2014) doi:10.1038/nm.3508

Most Popular Now

Making biological drugs with spider silk protein

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have managed to synthesise lung surfactant, a drug used in the care of preterm babies, by mimicking the production of spide...

Boehringer Ingelheim builds Digital Lab "BI X…

With the founding of BI X as independent subsidiary Boehringer Ingelheim will focus on breakthrough innovative digital solutions in healthcare from idea to pilot. The sta...

Bacteria used as factories to produce cancer drugs

Researchers at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability in Denmark have developed a method of producing P450 enzymes - used by plants to defend against pr...

Bristol-Myers Squibb announces new collaboration t…

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) announced today it has entered into a clinical research collaboration with Novartis to investigate the safety, tolerability and ef...

Clinical trial shows experimental drug's ability t…

By adding an experimental drug to a standard chemotherapy regimen, a subset of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer had a significantly longer period before the can...

Take a coffee or tea break to protect your liver

Chronic liver diseases rank as the 12th cause of death worldwide and many of these disorders are associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Conversely, a healthier lifestyle c...

Internet withdrawal increases heart rate and blood…

Scientists and clinicians from Swansea and Milan have found that some people who use the internet a lot experience significant physiological changes such as increased hea...

Novartis presents data demonstrating efficacy of A…

Novartis today announced that it will present 19 scientific abstracts at the 59th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (June 8-11, 2017, Boston, USA...

AstraZeneca enters agreement with Grünenthal to di…

AstraZeneca has entered an agreement with Grünenthal for the global rights to Zomig (zolmitriptan) outside Japan. Zomig is indicated for the acute treatment of migraines ...

Pfizer and Lilly receive FDA Fast Track designatio…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track designation for tanezu...

Anyone can become more curious. Is that true?

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced the start of an experiment entitled "Anyone can become more curious". Driven by the company’s curiosity i...

Isolated Greek villages reveal genetic secrets tha…

A genetic variant that protects the heart against cardiovascular disease has been discovered by researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their collaborators...

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]