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Natural Killer Cells May Help Protect Against New Strains of Influenza Virus
Date:5/1/2009

*Swine Flu Outbreak Highlights Influenza Virus Research at Drexel University*

PHILADELPHIA, May 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Research conducted at Drexel University has demonstrated the importance of natural killer, or NK, cells in controlling primary influenza virus infection. These findings may help us understand how the body's immune system may best respond to the newly emergent swine flu.

While no studies have been conducted on the specific H1N1 strain of influenza virus referred to as "swine flu," Drexel researchers have asked the question "How does the immune system respond the first time it encounters a new strain of influenza virus?"

Using a mouse model of primary influenza virus infection, Dr. Barry W. Ritz, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology of Drexel University, and colleagues have demonstrated that NK cells, specialized white blood cells that participate in innate or non-specific immunity, help control influenza virus early during an infection. Specifically, the studies demonstrate that NK cells are essential in controlling lung virus titers early during an influenza virus infection and that NK cell function decreases with old age.

Dr. Ritz: "NK cells are among the earliest responders to influenza virus infection and help control the infection, and because NK cells are non-specific in their response to influenza virus infection, they respond similarly no matter the source of the infection."

Dr. Ritz and colleagues have also studied the importance of nutritional status and specific nutritional interventions to support NK cell activity in response to influenza virus infection.

Dr. Ritz: "Certain nutritional interventions, or nutraceuticals, appear to have a positive effect on the NK cell response to influenza virus infection."

For example, Dr. Ritz has published several papers in the
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SOURCE AHCC Research Association
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