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New insights into how brain responds to viral infection
Date:3/31/2009

March 31, 2009, New York, NYScientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health have discovered that astrocytes, supportive cells in the brain that are not derived from an immune cell lineage, respond to a molecule that mimics a viral infection using cellular machinery similar to that used by classical immune cells in the blood. While scientists have been aware of the capacity of astrocytes to trigger an innate immune response when encountering a foreign agent, this work provides a new understanding of the complex mechanisms responsible for induction and regulation of inflammation in the brain and has significant implications for both the diagnosis and treatment of brain infections. The study is published as the cover article in the April 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org).

In the course of trying to contain and neutralize a virus that has breached the protective barrier of the central nervous system, immune mediators secreted by astrocytes may injure other cells and tissues in the vicinity and cause additional life-threatening inflammation.

By defining the nature of inflammatory responses by brain astrocytes, this study has implications for both the diagnosis of chronic infections of the central nervous system, as well as the treatment of acute and chronic brain infections. Viral infections of the brain are associated with extremely high morbidity and mortality; in most cases, the specific microbial cause is unknown. Even when a viral cause is clear, the specific antiviral tools at our disposal remain limited. This work provides a means for implementation of a more general therapeutic approach to viral brain infections that may be effective across a wide range of viruses, or even where a virus is suspected but the offending agent cannot be identified.

"Studies such as this take us one step closer to understanding both the risk and benefit associated with antiviral immune response and may lead to new trea
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Contact: Randee Sacks Levine
rs363@columbia.edu
212-305-8044
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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