American biologists have discovered a gene in mice and monkeys, one of which blocks AIDS, Ebola and other deadly viruses.
The journal Cell reports that the CHMP3 gene, which plays a key role in cellular processes vital to maintaining cell membrane integrity, intercellular signaling, and cell division, is also present in humans but in its original state. If scientists can modify it, it will be a huge breakthrough in the fight against many dangerous viral diseases.
Researchers from the University of Utah Medical Department and the Rockefeller University in New York discovered that mice and monkeys have an altered version of the retroCHMP3 gene that encodes changes in the relevant protein, which suppresses the ability of viruses to exit the infected cell, thus preventing infection of neighboring cells.
“This was an unexpected discovery, and we were surprised to see that a slight slowdown in cellular biology prevents virus replication,” says Dr. Nils Elde.
Using genetic tools, researchers were able to obtain a modified version of the human CHMP3 gene, and then infected cells with HIV, and discovered that the virus was difficult to separate from the infected cell. That is, the modified version of the gene succeeded in blocking the replication of the virus, without disrupting the metabolic signals or the functions of cells that could cause their death.
“We thought viruses like HIV and Ebola could always use the ESCRT pathway, to multiply and infect new cells,” says Elde. “But it turns out they have an Achilles heel too. RetroCHMP3 made viruses vulnerable. So we hope in the future, we can take advantage of this discovery and use it.” in the fight against viral diseases.
The authors believe that from an evolutionary point of view, the emergence of such genetic variants represents a new type of immunity that can emerge rapidly to protect against short-term threats.