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A comparative medicine study by Penn vet identifies a new approach to combat viral infections
Date:11/9/2012

PHILADELPHIA When a virus such as influenza invades our bodies, interferon proteins are among the first immune molecules produced to fight off the attack. Interferon can also play a role in suppressing tumor growth and the effects of autoimmune diseases, and doctors may use an artificial form of interferon to treat patients with certain cancers or multiple sclerosis. But even this approach sometimes fails when patients' bodies reject the foreign interferon or growing resistant to its effects.

A study by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine offers a new strategy for enhancing the effects of interferon in fighting off infection. The research suggests that, by targeting a particular molecule in the interferon signaling pathway, specially designed drugs may be able to boost the activity of a person's own interferon, augmenting the immune system's fight against viruses. It's possible that the same drugs might also be effective against some types of cancer and certain autoimmune conditions.

Serge Fuchs, a professor of cell biology in Penn Vet's Department of Animal Biology and director of the School's Mari Lowe Comparative Oncology Center, was the senior author on the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The practical significance of our study is a demonstration of the ability to use emerging pharmaceuticals to reactivate an individual's own interferon or to use a reduced dose to get the same effect," Fuchs said.

Christopher Carbone and Hui Zheng of the Department of Animal Biology and John Lewis and Alexander Reiter of the Department of Clinical Studies played leading roles in the study. Additional Penn Vet collaborators were Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Paula Henthorn and Kendra Bence. Zhong-Yin Zhang of Indiana University School of Medicine and Darren Baker of Biogen Idec also contributed.

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Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
kbaillie@upenn.edu
215-898-9194
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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