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February 14, 2008

Gene Therapy enhanced immune system of mice against viruses

Researchers at McGill University have discovered a way to boost an organism’s natural anti-virus defences, effectively making its cells immune to influenza and other viruses. Drugs could be produced for humans that would generate the same effect of kicking the bodies anti-virus mechanisms into overdrive. As a drug the immunity boost would stop when the drugs were not in the body. Either people could have the immunity increase on all the time or activated whenever there was a need based on detected pathogens.

This would be part of a powerful knockout punch with DNA sequencing methods of identifying any virus or pathogen even artificial ones and previously unknown natural ones. Rev up the immune system and rapidly identify and distribute antidotes to any sequenced problem. These advances would also work well with cheap lab on chip systems for spotting any outbreak of a growing catalog of known pathogens.

The process – which could lead to the development of new anti-viral therapies in humans – involved knocking out two genes in mice that repress production of the protein interferon, the cell’s first line of defence against viruses. Without these repressor genes, the mouse cells produced much higher levels of interferon, which effectively blocked viruses from reproducing. The researchers tested the process on influenza virus, encephalomyocarditis virus, vesicular stomatitis virus and Sindbis virus.



The researchers detected no abnormalities or negative side-effects resulting from enhanced interferon production in the mice, Dr. Costa-Mattioli said. Dr. Sonenberg explained that the process of knocking out genes is not possible in humans, but the researchers are optimistic new pharmaceutical therapies will evolve from their research.

“If we are able to target 4E-BP1 and 4E-BP2 with drugs, we will have a molecule that can protect you from viral infection. That’s a very exciting idea.” Dr. Costa-Mattiolo said. “We don't have that yet, but it’s the obvious next step.”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There has to be some significant cost here, or this genetic variation would already be fixed in the population.

bw said...

If there is as I already noted, we can use drugs or RNA to suppress the action of those two genes temporarily (when a virus needs to be fended off) then allow the action to return to normal.