Discovery of cellular process that fights type 1 herpes simplex

Discovery of cellular process that fights type 1 herpes simplex

A report on the online edition of Nature Immunology informs that our immune system has a new means to fight off the virus of Type 1 herpes simplex (HSV-1). Scientists from the Université de Montréal, in a teamwork effort with American colleagues, have discovered a cellular process to identify and fight herpes.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research supported in part this five-year study - a joint project with Washington University and Pennsylvania State University.

"Once human cells are infected with Type 1 herpes simplex, the virus comes back because it hides and blocks protection from our immune system," writes Luc English, lead author of the study, doctoral student, Université de Montréal's Department of Pathology and Cell Biology. "For the first time, our research team has indentified a combative cellular mechanism in this game of hide-and-seek."

English explains, "We've found that the nuclear membrane of an infected cell can unmask Type 1 herpes simplex and stimulate the immune system to disintegrate the virus."

The breakthrough came about while researchers were carrying out various tests in HSV-1 infected mice cells. The simulation of conditions in which Type 1 herpes simplex grows rapidly (periods of low-grade fever between 38.5 and 39 degrees) showed that mechanisms to fight herpes were activated. Research will now focus on studying how triggering the herpes-combating cellular process could be useful in treating other diseases. Results could accelerate the progress of therapies to prevent other bacteria, parasites and viruses.

"Our goal is to further study the molecules implicated in this mechanism to eventually develop therapies against diseases such as HIV or even cancer," says English.

Dr. Michel Desjardins, senior author, professor in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology at the Université de Montréal, believes that alternative treatments might be attainable in about ten years.

"Now that we've identified the novel mechanism in cells that activate immune response to Type 1 herpes simplex, scientists are one step closer to creating new treatments that can activate the defence against this and other viruses," writes Dr. Desjardins. "While it may not be possible to completely eradicate Type 1 herpes simplex in people who are already infected, at the very least, future therapies may be able to keep the virus in its dormant state."

Partners in research:

This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the foundation Research to Prevent Blindness.

About Herpes

There are two types of herpes viruses:

-- Type 1 herpes simplex that causes facial cold sores.

-- Type 2 that causes genital herpes.

Both types of herpes affect an estimated 80 million people in America alone and there is currently no cure for the condition.

About the study

"Autophagy enhances the presentation of endogenous viral antigens on MHC class I molecules during HSV-1 infection," published in Nature Immunology, by Luc English, Magali Chemali, Johanne Duron, Christiane Rondeau, Annie Laplante, Diane Gingras, Roger Lippe and Michel Desjardins of the Université de Montréal in collaboration with Diane Alexander and David Leib of Washington University and Christopher Norbury of Pennsylvania State University.

Université de Montréal

Department of Pathology and Cell Biology

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