Survival gene may be key to controlling HIV and hepatitis

The gene, called Arih2, is fundamental to the function of the immune system – making critical decisions about whether to switch on the immune response to an infection. Its discovery has implications for the treatment of chronic overwhelming infections, such as HIV, that ‘exhaust’ and switch off the immune system, as well as for chronic inflammatory (also known as autoimmune) conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis.
 
Dr Marc Pellegrini, Dr Greg Ebert and colleagues from the institute’s Infection and Immunity division, with collaborators from the University of Toronto, Canada, led the research. Their findings were published today in the journal Nature Immunology.
 
Infectious disease specialist and researcher Dr Pellegrini said that Arih2 is found in dendritic cells, the sentinels of the immune system that play an essential role in raising the alarm about the presence of foreign invaders in the body. “Arih2 is responsible for the most fundamental and important decision that the immune system has to make – whether the immune response should be initiated and progressed or whether it should be switched off to avoid the development of chronic inflammation or autoimmunity,” Dr Pellegrini said. “If the wrong decision is made, the organism will either succumb to the infection, or succumb to autoimmunity.”
 
Medical XPress reports here.

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