Issue Date: January 4, 2010
If you manage to escape swine flu, thank your interferon-inducible transmembrane (IFITM) proteins. Harvard Medical School’s Stephen J. Elledge and Abraham L. Brass and colleagues have discovered that these proteins, which were previously associated with functions including immune cell signaling and bone mineralization, also serve as the body’s first line of defense against the H1N1 virus (Cell 2009, 139, 1243). In experiments with cultured human and mouse cells, IFITM proteins prevented or slowed most virus particles from infecting cells. The proteins are activated by interferon, a protein alarm signal that cells emit when they’re invaded by a virus. But the interferon response makes people feel ill when their bodies are fighting the flu. “If we can figure out ways to increase levels of these proteins without interferon,” Elledge says, “we can potentially increase natural resistance to some viruses without all the side effects of the interferons.” The researchers found that IFITM proteins also protect cells from West Nile virus and dengue virus.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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