Researchers discover critical immune system gene

Scientists recently identified a gene critical to the human body's immune system that could aid in the treatment of diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

The gene, known as Arih2, is found in dendritic cells and is believed to be responsible for activating the body's immune system. Dendritic cells function as the immune system's early warning agents by detecting foreign invaders and are present in tissues that have direct contact with the external environment, according to

Dr. Marc Pellegrini of Australia's Eliza Hall Institute said new research that was recently published in the journal Nature Immunology, has demonstrated that manipulating Arih2 can boost immune responses, including those caused by vaccinations.

Pellegrini said the immune system works effectively against most infections, but some pathogens have developed ways of evading or tiring it.

"During evolution, some organisms have evolved ways of exhausting our immune system to the point where the immune system just switches off, and this is what happens in HIV, hepatitis B and tuberculosis," Dr. Pellegrini said, reports.

Pellegrini is optimistic that the gene could hold a key to finding ways to reinvigorate the immune system in order to help clear infections. His team is now hoping to test drugs that target the gene.

"This discovery has significant implications for manipulating the immune response to infections and suppressing chronic inflammation or autoimmunity, because we can target this gene to try to push immune responses in one or other direction - either promoting it or suppressing it," Dr. Pellegrini said, according to "It is probably one of the few genes and pathways that is very targetable and could lead to a drug very quickly."