Dennis Kunkel/Dennis Kunkel Microscopy Inc.
Scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia have identified the mechanism that causes the cellular functions of the immune system to deteriorate in response to severe viral infections, such as HIV or “Covid-19”.
And Nature Immunology reports that severe viral infections and cancer suppress T-cells, a process called “immunodeficiency”. In order to overcome them, researchers have devised new methods of treatment, but the biological mechanism of this process is still not fully understood.
University of Melbourne scientists, in collaboration with scientists from the Olivia Newton-John Institute for Cancer Research and the Walter and Elisa Hall Institute for Medical Research, have decided to find out when and how T cells lose their function and become “exhausted”.
It was previously thought that during a severe infection, T cells gradually lose their function slowly over a long period of time. However, the results of studies show that T cells can lose their function within a few days.
Dr. Daniel Wischneider, head of the research group from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunology at the University of Melbourne said, “This is an exciting discovery, especially in the context of” Covid-19 “. One of the main questions is why some people develop a severe form of” Covid-19 “and others a mild form. ?
The researchers studied the effect of the choriococcal lymphatic virus, which is considered a model for severe viral infection, and they discovered strange differences between the severe and light forms of infection at the molecular and functional levels, which appear immediately after infection with the disease.
“In response to the spread of infection, which is difficult to clear, and which can turn chronic, the activity of T cells is suppressed within a few days, while T cells that respond to a mild infection remain inactive,” said Dr. Sara Gabriel.
According to the scientists, the work of T cells is the basis of cancer immunotherapy, so it is important to understand, how the viral infection affects these cells.
Professor Axel Kales, a contributor to this study, adds, “These results are exciting and very important. They show that T-lymphocytes can be manipulated in the early stages of viral infection, in order to enhance their activity.”