NYU Biologists Reveal Novel Way Neurons Combat Viral Infections


Biologists at New York University have determined how neurons combat viral infections. Their findings, which appear in the journal Viral Immunology, may offer a path for treating viral encephalitis and related afflictions

Reprinted with Permission from DNA AND CELL BIOLOGY, 2010 (in press), published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc, New Rochelle, NY.
Reprinted with Permission from DNA AND CELL BIOLOGY, 2010 (in press), published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc, New Rochelle, NY.

Findings May Offer Path for Treating Viral Encephalitis and Related Afflictions

Biologists at New York University have determined how neurons combat viral infections. Their findings, which appear in the journal Viral Immunology, may offer a path for treating viral encephalitis and related afflictions.

Understanding what happens to the body’s neurons-nerve cells that are fundamental to the make-up of the brain and spinal cord-when they become infected has long been a significant area of scientific inquiry. This is because our immune system kills cells when viral infection is seen. However, neurons, unlike other cells, cannot be replaced, and therefore infected neurons are not targeted by killer T cells.

PHOTO CAPTION: The images show the impact of interferons in fighting viral proteins in neurons. The nucleus of each cell is in blue while the viral proteins are in red. In the top image, neurons have not been treated with interferons, thus allowing viral proteins to replicate. The bottom image shows neurons that have been treated with interferons, resulting in a containment of the virus.

In an effort to understand how neurons fight viral infections, the NYU researchers compared and contrasted neurons with non-neuronal cells. To do this, they treated both types of cells with interferons, which are proteins made by the body that are released in response to stimuli-notably infection.

Their results showed significant differences in how interferons function in both types of cells. In n 500

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