The human body is constantly attacked by pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Therefore the immune system has evolved mechanisms to fight these unwanted guests. Andreas Pichlmair and his research group want to elucidate, how pathogens and host act against each other and which interactions decide on the success or failure of a viral attack.
If viruses enter our body the immune system reacts promptly. Immune cells recognize the pathogens via signal molecules on the cell`s surface and initiate the proper maneuver. Pichlmair`s research focuses on these molecular sensors. But the pathogens are not defenseless. They use viral immune modulators and other mechanisms to block an immune response. Pichlmair’s team has already identified 600 cellular proteins that influence these viral immune modulators.
If the viruses are successful and enter the cell, the pathogens take over the command and make the cellular metabolism work for them. It is still not known in detail how they alter the genetic activity and the protein production of the infected cells. Because many genes are affected by the reprogramming, mass spectrometry is one of the key methods the researchers utilize. In this way they can detect which proteins – in which quantity and at which specific point in time – are present in the cell.
Barrier against Viruses
In a previous study Pichlmair revealed a fundamental mechanism cells use to fight viruses: The IFIT proteins differentiate the viral genetic material from the cellular material and destroy it – which makes these proteins interesting for novel antiviral therapies. Medications to fight viruses are still not effective– it is therefore worthwhile to take a look at the body’s own security technology.