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Missing link in immune system response to viral infection is discovered


Montreal, QC April 25, 2003 The Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics (CANVAC) says that two of its affiliated researchers, Drs John Hiscott and Rongtuan Lin, have recently discovered a pathway which triggers the immune system’s response to virus infection.

The essential role of two cellular proteins that trigger the immune system antiviral response has been characterized by the laboratory of Dr John Hiscott (director, molecular oncology group, Lady Davis Institute, and professor of medicine, microbiology and oncology in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University) and Dr Rongtuan Lin (project director, Lady Davis Institute and Assistant professor of medicine also at McGill).

Published online by Science magazine on April 17, the study entitled “Triggering the Interferon Antiviral Response through an IKK-related Pathway,” was co-authored by Sonia Sharma, Benjamin R tenOever, Nathalie Grandvaux and Guo-Ping Zhou.

“The importance of this discovery lies in the fact that these proteins are part of the earliest response of the body to virus infection,” says Dr Hiscott. “Through millions of years of evolution, many disease-causing viruses have found ways to disrupt the workings of our immune system.”

The discovery of cellular proteins involved in stimulating the immune response could therefore have important implications in the development of therapies to treat diseases caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis C Virus as well as the much publicized Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Funding for this research was made possible by the support of the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics (CANVAC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Fonds de la recherche en sant du Qubec (FRSQ) and the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

CANVAC is a network of 74 of the most highly recognized Canadian specialists in the fields of immunology, virology, and molecular biology, who are faculty members at 25 Canadian universities and affiliated research institutes. The network scientists, in collaboration with 22 corporate partners, as well as interested government departments and agencies, and several patient and consumer groups, are working towards the development of safe and effective vaccines to protect and treat Canadians and people around the world from cancer and life-threatening viral infections, including those caused by HIV and the hepatitis C virus.

As a Network of the Centres of Excellence (NCE), CANVAC is hosted by the Universit de Montral.