Home Life Style Newly discovered gene may be key to fight off HIV and hepatitis

Newly discovered gene may be key to fight off HIV and hepatitis

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HIV and Hepatitis

According to a study published today in the journal Nature Immunology, researchers from the Institute’s Infection and Immunity division, with collaborators from the University of Toronto, Canada, have discovered a new gene that could be new target to treat chronic infections such as HIV infection , tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Arih2, the new discovered gene, that is essential for the survival of the embryo, plays a crucial role in immune system function. It seems that this gene is one that takes the decision to activate or not the immune system in infections. This gene is found in dendritic cells, cells of the immune system that alert the organism when a microorganism enters the body. Dr Marc Pellegrini, from the institute’s Infection and Immunity division, with collaborators from the University of Toronto, Canada, said Arih2 is responsible for the most important decision that the immune system makes, namely whether to activate or to switch off immunity in order to  prevent the development of chronic inflammation or autoimmune processes.

gene

Gene

Dr Marc Pellegrini added that most of the times the body knows how to fight off an infection but there are microorganisms that have learned how to escape the immune system so as to  persist in the body. Certain bacteria or virus overstimulates the production of T lymphocytes which triggers immune exhaustion and leads to  lymphocytic depletion. It happens in HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis B. In addition, new therapeutic target may be used in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease.

Now researchers are trying to investigate what effects would have blocking the Arih2 gene for short periods of time during chronic infection. Dr Greg Ebert said Arih2 has a unique structure which makes it an excellent candidate for a therapeutic target. He added that this unique structure is unlikely to produce adverse effects or interact with other proteins. Because it is a gene essential for survival, researchers must investigate the effects of switching off Arih2 for short periods of time. Their goal is to find a way to stimulate the immune system against infection without unwanted or collateral damage or autoimmunity.

But researchers wanted to mention that anyway will take many years since the discovery of therapeutic targets to a drug to be used by people. However, scientists are excited by this finding. Dr Pellegrini wanted to highlight that Arih2 is one of the most important genes involved in the immune system. In other words, researchers can control the immune response in one direction or another by manipulating this gene:  they can either stimulate or block the immune system.