Flu vaccines have grown into a multibillion-dollar business, but researchers at the Ohio State University have published findings that could one day transform the field and put a damper on those figures.
The team found in mouse and human cells that by altering a protein called IFITM3--which targets influenza--the body can form a preventative protection against the virus rather than being reactive. The antiflu protein typically is produced only after the virus is present, but the researchers have shown it can provide protection against infection if produced in large quantities beforehand.
To do this, the OSU researchers inhibited an enzyme called NEDD4 from doing its job of keeping IFITM3 levels low and the antiflu protein began to amass. Senior author Jacob Yount, OSU professor of microbial infection and immunity, said that the flu vaccine has to change yearly because of virus mutations, but the research points to a more fundamental protection against flu.
The research remains in early stages, and the group is now testing the effects of inhibiting NEDD4 at different stages in life. Some findings have shown that the enzyme may be necessary in early life, but the effects of suppressing it in adult life are not fully known. The work was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and published in PLOS Pathogens.
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