Nav: Home

How viruses disarm the immune system

February 05, 2018

How do viruses that cause chronic infections, such as HIV or hepatitis c virus, manage to outsmart their hosts' immune systems?

The answer to that question has long eluded scientists, but new research from McGill University has uncovered a molecular mechanism that may be a key piece of the puzzle. The discovery could provide new targets for treating a wide range of diseases.

Fighting off infections depends largely on our bodies' capacity to quickly recognize infected cells and destroy them, a job carried out by a class of immune cells known as CD8+ T cells. These soldiers get some of their orders from chemical mediators known as cytokines that make them more or less responsive to outside threats. In most cases, CD8+ T cells quickly recognize and destroy infected cells to prevent the infection from spreading.

"When it comes to viruses that lead to chronic infection, immune cells receive the wrong set of marching orders, which makes them less responsive," says Martin Richer, an assistant professor at McGill's Department of Microbiology & Immunology and senior author of the study, published recently in the journal Immunity.

The research, conducted in Richer's lab by graduate student Logan Smith, revealed that certain viruses persist by driving the production of a cytokine that leads to modification of glycoproteins on the surface of the CD8+ T cells, making the cells less functional. That maneuver buys time for the pathogen to outpace the immune response and establish a chronic infection. Importantly, this pathway can be targeted to restore some functionality to the T cells and enhance the capacity to control infection.

The discovery of this regulatory pathway could help identify new therapeutic targets for a variety of diseases. "We might be able to take advantage of the pathways induced by these signals to fight chronic viral infections by making the immune system more responsive," Richer says. "The findings might also prove useful for diseases like cancer and autoimmunity, where T cells function is poorly regulated."
-end-


McGill University

Related Immune System Articles:

The immune system may explain skepticism towards immigrants
There is a strong correlation between our fear of infection and our skepticism towards immigrants.
New insights on how pathogens escape the immune system
The bacterium Salmonella enterica causes gastroenteritis in humans and is one of the leading causes of food-borne infectious diseases.
Understanding how HIV evades the immune system
Monash University (Australia) and Cardiff University (UK) researchers have come a step further in understanding how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) evades the immune system.
Carbs during workouts help immune system recovery
Eating carbohydrates during intense exercise helps to minimise exercise-induced immune disturbances and can aid the body's recovery, QUT research has found.
A new model for activation of the immune system
By studying a large protein (the C1 protein) with X-rays and electron microscopy, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have established a new model for how an important part of the innate immune system is activated.
Guards of the human immune system unraveled
Dendritic cells represent an important component of the immune system: they recognize and engulf invaders, which subsequently triggers a pathogen-specific immune response.
How our immune system targets TB
Researchers have seen, for the very first time, how the human immune system recognizes tuberculosis (TB).
How a fungus inhibits the immune system of plants
A newly discovered protein from a fungus is able to suppress the innate immune system of plants.
A new view of the immune system
Pathogen epitopes are fragments of bacterial or viral proteins. Nearly a third of all existing human epitopes consist of two different fragments.
TB tricks the body's immune system to allow it to spread
Tuberculosis tricks the immune system into attacking the body's lung tissue so the bacteria are allowed to spread to other people, new research from the University of Southampton suggests.

Related Immune System Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".