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New study may show how to forestall a fatal, virus-caused immune-system meltdown

se and protective immune response on a broad, global level,?said lead author and UTMB postdoctoral fellow Gavin Bowick. He said that checking almost 1,200 interactions simultaneously let the researchers see the big picture of immune response, avoiding the contradictory results often produced by studies that focus on only a single biochemical pathway.

To better understand their results, the investigators plugged their data into the Ingenuity Systems “pathways analysis?program, which draws on a large-scale computer database of biochemical interactions that have been described in a wide variety of peer-reviewed scientific papers. “Applying this massive Ingenuity database, which includes all sorts of cellular pathways that would normally not occur to us ?pathways discovered by people studying endocrinology, cancer, cystic fibrosis and so on ?we find that things suddenly begin to make sense,?said UTMB professor Norbert Herzog, one of the paper’s senior authors. “Cell signaling networks are like spider webs—pulling on one strand causes all the strands to move, and the Ingenuity system helped us see and comprehend connections we would have missed otherwise.?

Connecting those strands is critical to diagnosing and restoring balance to an immune system gone haywire in a disease like Lassa fever. “Early on, you can’t really differentiate these nasty hemorrhagic fever viruses from their symptoms ?they just resemble the flu,?Herzog said. “But if you have biomarkers to go along with viral diagnostic techniques you can tell which virus it is and where you are on the continuum of infection. And if you understand the signaling pathways well enough, you can stimulate or suppress the immune response in the right way at the right time to create safe and effective therapies.?

According to Bowick, the Pichinde experiments have already generated some therapeutic leads, thanks to the unexpected discovery that a growth factor receptor molecule normally associat
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Source:University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston


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