Friday, December 18, 2009

The Best Defense



# 4166



My blogging schedule remains erratic due to the family medical crisis, but should ease up over the next few days.  At least a little. My apologies to my readers for the lack of updates.  - MPC



One of the `good’ things about a pandemic is that we often devote more time, energy, and money in research and come away with a better understanding of our physiology, and the pathogenic world around us, as a result.

We are seeing scientific advances nearly every day.  Not all of them are immediately actionable, of course. 


Sometimes, we just get another piece of the puzzle.  


Yesterday, one of those potential puzzle pieces was announced via a flurry of press releases from Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, regarding the discovery of a flu fighting protein. 


December 17, 2009
Researchers Find Human Protein that Prevents H1N1 Influenza Infection

IFITM3 was among the host factors found to inhibit influenza A virus infection in the genetic screen. When influenza virus encounters primary Chicken fibroblasts (blue), there is massive viral infection as indicated by red cells (left panel). When IFITM3 levels were increased in these cells, a strong block to influenza A virus infection occurs (right panel) even though equal amounts of virus were added in both experiments.


Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have identified a naturally occurring human protein that helps prevent infection by H1N1 influenza and other viruses, including West Nile and dengue virus.


A research team led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Stephen J. Elledge and his colleague, Abraham Brass, discovered that human cells respond to infection by the H1N1 influenza virus by ramping up production of proteins that have unexpectedly powerful antiviral effects. In cultured human cells, those proteins, whose functions were previously unknown, block the replication of H1N1 influenza virus, West Nile virus, and dengue virus.


“The virus replicated five to ten times better when IFITM3 wasn’t there.”
Stephen J. Elledge

The unexpected discovery could lead to the development of more effective antiviral drugs, including prophylactic drugs that could be used to slow influenza transmission.

(Continue . . . )