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Virtual Institute investigates virus infections
Date:7/1/2011

Understanding the tricks and survival strategies of viruses to effectively combat them: That is the goal of the virtual institute VISTRIE that received its funding commitment today. VISTRIE, which stands for "Viral Strategies of Immune Evasion", is a joint program grant with independent management structures receiving funding by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Coordinated by the German Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (Helmholtz-Zentrum fr Infektionsforschung, HZI) in Braunschweig, five university and non-university research institutions combine their expertise: the HZI, the Medical School Hannover, the TWINCORE Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research in Hannover, the Heinrich-Heine-University in Dsseldorf in Germany and the University of Rijeka in Croatia. Their object of study: the widespread Cytomegalovirus (CMV).

"Viruses are the smallest known life form," says Luka Cicin-Sain, PhD MD, head of the Virtual Institute VISTRIE and head of a young investigator group at the HZI, "if you consider them to be a life form at all." For example, viruses cannot propagate. For this, they have to infect a host cell and channel in their genetic information. The host cell is then forced to produce the individual segments of the virus. In the end those building blocks assemble to form new viruses.

The immune system is capable to detect and destroy virus infected cells and thus stop the propagation of viruses. However, in the course of evolution, viruses have developed numerous mechanisms to outwit the immune system. For example, they disrupt the communication between immune cells or prevent the killing of the own host cell. "The evolution of viruses is much faster than ours. They are very well adapted to block our immune system," says Cicin-Sain. "Therefore, viral genes are ideal tools to understand the immune system and the virus defence."

Using CMV as the paradigmatic model pathogen, the VISTRIE rese
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Contact: Dr. Bastian Dornbach
bastian.dornbach@helmholtz-hzi.de
49-531-618-11407
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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