Research from the University of Washington School of Medicine (UW Medicine) has revealed that a drug-like molecule can activate innate immunity and induce genes to control infection in a range of RNA viruses, such as influenza A and respiratory syncytial. The findings show promising evidence for creating a broad-spectrum antiviral. According to Science Daily, RIG-I is a cellular protein known as a pathogen recognition receptor, and these receptors detect viral RNA and signal an innate immune response inside the cell that is key in limiting and controlling viral infections.

The signal induces the expression of many innate immune and antiviral genes as well the production of antiviral gene products, pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and interferons. The researchers write, “These products act in concert to suppress and control virus infection.” The Science Daily news report notes that such activation of the innate immune response to control viral infection has been tested successfully in cells and mice. Michael Gale, Jr, director of the UW Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease, says the next steps would be to test dosing and stability in animal models and then in humans, which is a process that may take 2 to 5 years.

From hepatitis C to Ebola and West Nile, Gale states, “Our compound has an antiviral effect against all these viruses.” The findings emerged from research in his lab in collaboration with scientists at Kineta Inc. and the University of Texas at Galveston. Gale believes the findings are the first to show that innate immunity can be triggered through RIG-I, a molecule present in all cells.

Shawn Iadonato, chief scientific officer at Kineta, says there is tremendous interest in triggering innate immunity. He explains that some viral infections cannot be treated by traditional antivirals and activating innate immunity will also make the viruses less likely to resist the drug actions because the therapy targets the cell via gene action rather than the virus itself. Iadonato says, “It’s routine for us to think of broad-spectrum antibiotics, but the equivalent for virology doesn’t exist.”

Source: Science Daily