Washington University researchers devise approach to improve immunity

Novel, effective approach to improving immunity and fighting viruses | Courtesy of
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently discovered a new approach to improve innate immune defenses while also fighting the virus.

The method boosts the body’s natural immunity by improving the interferon signaling system while attacking a specific protein that viruses need to replicate and take over the body.

"We've discovered a new component of the interferon system," Michael Holtzman, the study's senior author, said. "It does something that other components don't do, and it works on both sides of the fence. It dials up the body's internal genes that fight viruses, and it attacks viral proteins directly."

The researchers used mice that had a wide range of viral infections. They found that there are weapons inside the body’s antiviral immune arsenal that can be used to fight illnesses. The arsenal can be used as a guideline for drug designs.

"Past work to boost this system just kept the interferon signal on all the time," Holtzman said. "When the system is chronically activated, it is no longer regulated, and that's where the autoimmune problems may come from. Our system is still regulated by the presence or absence of interferon. Interferon amounts increase when there is an infection and decrease when there is no infection. We're not boosting interferon itself, but the secondary signal that interferon activates, which sets off the rest of the antiviral cascade. It's like greasing the wheels. We're not pushing the system any harder. But when we do push, we get a bigger effect."

Further details are available in the Nature Immunology edition published on Oct. 19.

Organizations in this story

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis 660 S Euclid Ave St Louis, MO 63110

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