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Researchers Find Common Respiratory Virus Hijacks Lung Cells to Stay Alive
Date:9/4/2009

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"Viruses must find a way to survive inside the host, and in this case RSV has found a way of keeping alive the cells that they infect," Piedimonte explained. "The virus invades the cell, which then produces a small molecule called NGF, or nerve growth factor. NGF allows the cell to survive while the virus reproduces itself. Finally, the cell explodes releasing new viral particles ready to infect the neighboring cells."

In determining how the virus instructs the infected cell to prolong its life, the researchers may have established a blueprint for development of new anti-viral drugs aimed at interfering with the action of NGF, Piedimonte said. He added that RSV may prefer the lower respiratory tract specifically because the smaller airways there allow for more efficient production of NGF.

"The interesting part of the RSV infection is that the viruses induce NGF production within an hour of coming into contact with the human cells - that is, even before they start multiplying," said the paper's lead author, Sreekumar Othumpangat, Ph.D., a researcher in the WVU Pediatric Research Institute.

Children born prematurely as well as those with chronic lung or heart disease are at higher risk for severe RSV infections.

The laboratory studies were done using human cells. Now that Piedimonte's team has discovered how RSV prolongs the life of its host cell, they are proceeding with other studies to see if they can pinpoint the same mechanism in common cold and influenza viruses.

The paper's other authors are Laura F. Gibson, deputy director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU, and Lennie Samsell, a research assistant in the Pediatric Research Institute.

The article, "NGF Is an Essential Survival Factor for Bronchial Epithelial Cells during Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection," is available online at '/>"/>

SOURCE West Virginia University Health Sciences Center
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