Nav: Home

Using 'big data' to combat influenza

December 09, 2015

La Jolla, Calif., and New York, N.Y., Dec. 9, 2015 - An international team of academic and pharmaceutical scientists have tapped into publically available large-scale 'Omics' databases to identify new targets to treat influenza -- the virus that causes annual epidemics and occasional pandemics. The study, published today in Cell Host and Microbe, reflects a breakthrough approach using advanced computational designs to identify new factors that can be targeted to prevent viruses from spreading. The research team also created a website with open access for scientists to cull additional host-targets to develop the next-generation of anti-influenza drugs.

"Traditionally, physicians have treated the flu with drugs that directly block the influenza virus," said Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., co-senior author and director of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP). "Although these drugs have been helpful, many patients fail to respond because viruses, especially influenza A virus (IAV), can mutate, rendering them resistant to available drugs. Our research efforts are focused on finding unalterable host molecules -- the ones within our bodies -- that viruses hijack to spread and create full blown infections."

Influenza viruses cannot replicate on their own. They can only carry a few genes -- about a dozen or so -- compared to a human genome comprising more than 20,000 genes. To ensure their survival, flu viruses rely on co-opting molecular machines in the infected host, which they use to their advantage to grow and spread. In recent years, researchers have sought to turn the tables and fight viruses by blocking their access to host molecules.

By integrating multiple IAV host-pathogen 'Omics' databases, including one generated by the work in this study, the research team identified 20 previously unrecognized host proteins required for IAV replication. One protein, UBR4, was singled out as a pivotal host protein that the virus uses to bud off from the host cell membrane and form spherical vesicles that transmit the virus within and between individuals.

The study showed that blocking UBR4 in human cells (in vitro) and mice (in vivo) reduced IAV replication and pathogenesis, establishing proof-of-concept of the strategy to target UBR4 as an influenza treatment.

"Our work illustrates how the computational analysis of large datasets from multiple independent studies can reveal novel host factors and networks involved in virus replication as potential targets for therapeutic intervention," said Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, Ph.D., director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "'Big data' is no longer merely a catchphrase -- it is a real tool to help scientists address the world's most serious public health threats."

The research team has created a simplified, user-friendly web portal of the integrated data that reflects the biochemical landscape of essential influenza-host interactions. The site enables customized queries and analysis tools to find host proteins likely to play a role in influenza infection.

"Recent waves of new technologies have allowed scientists to generate unprecedented quantities of data about human disease. But now, there exists an equally large gap between those that are producing and analyzing these data, and those that apply the data for therapeutic benefit.

"We anticipate that the approach described in this study, which is packaged as an accessible web interface, will provide a bridge for those on the frontlines of biomedical discovery and therapeutic development to leverage 'big data' and achieve transformative treatments for unmet medical needs, said Chanda"
-end-
The study was also led by Drs. Renate Konig of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (Germany) and Silke Stertz at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), and performed in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, Oregon State University, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Harvard Medical School, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Columbia University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, University of Zurich, UC San Francisco, and the German Center for Infection Research.

The study was supported by NIAID research grant U19 AI106754, the Swiss Nation Science Foundation, the AXA Research Fund, National Institute of Health P50 GM085764, 1R01AI091786 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Health, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

About Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) is an independent nonprofit research organization that blends cutting-edge fundamental research with robust drug discovery to address unmet clinical needs in the areas of cancer, neuroscience, immunity, and metabolic disorders. The Institute invests in talent, technology, and partnerships to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries that will have the greatest impact on patients. Recognized for its world-class NCI-designated Cancer Center and the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, SBP employs more than 1,100 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla.

For more information, visit us at SBPdiscovery.org. The Institute can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SBPdiscovery and on Twitter @SBPdiscovery.

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Related Influenza Articles:

How proteins help influenza A bind and slice its way to cells
Researchers have provided new insight on how two proteins help influenza A virus particles fight their way to human cells.
Eating elderberries can help minimize influenza symptoms
Conducted by Professor Fariba Deghani, Dr. Golnoosh Torabian and Dr.
Mechanism to form influenza A virus discovered
A new study by Maria João Amorim's team, from the Gulbenkian Institute of Science, now reveals where the genomes of the influenza A virus are assembled inside infected cells.
Bat influenza viruses could infect humans
Bats don't only carry the deadly Ebola virus, but are also a reservoir for a new type of influenza virus.
New VaxArray publication on influenza neuraminidase quantification
InDevR Inc. announced publication of 'A Neuraminidase Potency Assay for Quantitative Assessment of Neuraminidase in Influenza Vaccines' in npj Vaccines.
Fighting mutant influenza
Another flu season is here, which means another chance for viruses to mutate.
Influenza vaccine delays are a problem for pediatricians
Uptake of influenza vaccine among children is low compared to other childhood vaccines, and missed opportunities for vaccination play an important role in this low uptake.
For a better influenza vaccine, focus on the neglected 'N'
In the April 5, 2018, issue of the journal Cell, researchers push for greater emphasis on the neglected viral-surface influenza protein neuraminidase.
Previous influenza virus exposures enhance susceptibility in another influenza pandemic
New data analysis suggests that people born at the time of the 1957 H2N2 or Asian Flu pandemic were at a higher risk of dying during the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic as well as the resurgent H1N1 outbreak in 2013-2014.
Annual influenza vaccination does not prevent natural immunity
Earlier studies have suggested that having repeated annual influenza vaccination can prevent natural immunity to the virus, and potentially increase the susceptibility to influenza illness in the event of a pandemic, or when the vaccine does not 'match' the virus circulating in the community.
More Influenza News and Influenza Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#542 Climate Doomsday
Have you heard? Climate change. We did it. And it's bad. It's going to be worse. We are already suffering the effects of it in many ways. How should we TALK about the dangers we are facing, though? Should we get people good and scared? Or give them hope? Or both? Host Bethany Brookshire talks with David Wallace-Wells and Sheril Kirschenbaum to find out. This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News. Related links: Why Climate Disasters Might Not Boost Public Engagement on Climate Change on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin The other kind...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab