Studying mice with a variety of viral infections, scientists at the School of Medicine have demonstrated a way to dial up the body’s innate immune defenses while simultaneously attacking a protein that many viruses rely on to replicate. The findings reveal previously unknown weapons in the body’s antiviral immune arsenal and provide guidelines for designing drugs that could be effective against a broad range of viruses.
Scientists have long suspected that respiratory viruses play a critical role in the development of chronic lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Studying mouse and cell models of this process, researchers now have shown how immune cells dispatched to the lung to destroy a respiratory virus can fail to disperse after their job is done, setting off a chain of inflammatory events that leads to long-term lung problems.
A new study led by Michael J. Holtzman, MD, at the School of Medicine suggests that a fundamental antiviral defense mechanism is intact in asthma. This indicates that another aspect of the immune system must explain the difficulty people with asthma have when they encounter respiratory viruses.
School of Medicine researchers have described another link in the chain of events that connects acute viral infections to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Their discovery points to a new therapeutic target for COPD, an extremely common disease of the lower airways. The image depicts airway epithelial cells from lung tissue of a COPD patient.