A recent study from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta shows how peroxisomes may be crucial in the fight against West Nile virus and dengue fever.
The scientists discovered how these viruses use an important organelle to maneuver around the early antiviral defenses of the human body. Organelles, which are specific sub-units inside a cell, are called peroxisomes. These help the body strategize and release its immune attack on an invader.
The viruses are able to degrade Pex19, a specific protein, to create new peroxisomes. This then creates a chain reaction, making the body further susceptible to the invading infection.
"Peroxisomes, as it turns out, are required for production of an antiviral molecule called interferon lambda," Tom Hobman, senior author and professor of cell biology at the university, said. "Interferon lambda is produced by infected cells and has been shown to inhibit replication of multiple viruses. We hypothesized that loss of peroxisomes results in the loss of the ability of the cells to produce this interferon, which indeed was found to be the case.”
This discovery could change modern medicine’s approach to mosquito-borne diseases.
"It's certainly within the realm of possibility that if peroxisomes play this key role in antiviral defense, it may be possible to take drugs that are known to boost peroxisome production to provide protection against the viruses," Hobman said.