16 June 2014
The body’s ability to sense and inhibit viral infections could be enhanced by boosting a protein that naturally exists in our bodies, suggests research from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).
Scientists behind the study believe the findings could lead to more effective treatments for viruses, such as hepatitis C and the flu.
Dr Saumendra N Sarkar, senior author of the study, said: "Despite remarkable advances in vaccination and treatment, diseases caused by viral infections remain among the leading causes of death worldwide.
"We need new defences against viral infections, and our discovery is proving to be a promising avenue for further exploration."
The protein - oligoadenylate synthetases-like (OASL) - appears in increased quantities in people with liver cancer that has been caused by the hepatitis C virus.
OASL enhances a cells’ ability to detect ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses, which subsequently activates the immune system to sense the virus and inhibit replication.
In laboratory tests, boosting the protein effectively inhibited viral replication.
Dr Sarkar and his team now plan to determine the most efficient way to increase OASL and to study the protein in patients with lung infections.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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