Scientists identify molecule that flicks on immune system

May 21st, 2012 - 5:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, May 21 (IANS) Researchers have identified the molecular ’switch’ that directly triggers the body’s first line of defence against pathogens, more accurately known as the body’s “innate immunity”.

They found that this molecule — called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK), when switched on, activates the production of interferons, a potent class of virus killers that enables the body to fight deadly dengue and flu viruses.

While there are anti-viral drugs to treat flu, the high rates of mutation that characterise flu virus have made it difficult to treat with one universal drug or vaccine, according to a statement of Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI), under the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore.

As for dengue, there are currently no clinically approved vaccines or cures either. This discovery of BTK’s role as a critical ’switch’ that boosts the body’s anti-viral response, paves the way for developing anti-viral drugs that target the BTK ’switch’ to fight infectious diseases.

“We are very excited because this is the first time that the link between BTK and its critical role in the immediate anti-viral responses of the immune system, triggered in response to invading viruses like Dengue, is definitively demonstrated,” said Koon-Guan Lee, study co-author from BTI.

Kong-Peng Lam, professor and acting executive director of BTI, said: “This study adds new insights to the understanding of how the body’s innate immunity is triggered to create an effective immune response.”

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