A team of Canadian and Austrian researchers say their new finding could help develop new drugs to fight various immune system disorders.
Researchers at McGill University and the Austrian Academy of Sciences claim to have discovered the molecular blueprint behind the IFIT protein. This key protein enables our immune system to detect viruses and prevent infection by acting as foot soldiers guarding the body against infection. They recognize foreign viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) produced by the virus and act as defender molecules by potentially latching onto the genome of the virus and preventing it from making copies of itself, blocking infection.
The teams were led by Bhushan Nagar, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at McGill's Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Giulio Superti-Furga at the CeMM.
"Infection by pathogens such as viruses and bacteria are caught by a layer of the immune system that consists of guard-like proteins constantly on the lookout for foreign molecules derived from the pathogen," Nagar said in a statement Sunday. "Once the pathogen is detected, a rapid response by the host cell is elicited, which includes the production of an array of defender molecules that work together to block and remove the infection. The IFIT proteins are key members of these defender molecules."
"Once the IFIT protein clamps down on the viral RNA, the RNA is then presumably prevented from being used by the virus for its own replication," says Superti-Furga, "Since many viruses, such as influenza and rabies, rely on triphosphate RNA for their lifecycle, these results have widespread implications in understanding how our cells interact with viruses and combat them."