As the coronavirus outbreak shows, viruses are a constant threat to humanity.
As the coronavirus outbreak shows, viruses are a constant threat to humanity. Vaccines are regularly developed and deployed against specific viruses, but that process takes a lot of time, doesn’t help everyone who needs protection, and still leaves people exposed to new outbreaks and new viruses.
Now, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have uncovered a novel potential antiviral drug target that could lead to treatments protecting against a host of infectious diseases – creating a pan, or universal, treatment. Their work suggests that the protein Argonaute 4 (AGO4) is an “Achilles heel” for viruses.
AGO4 is one of a family of AGO proteins. Until now, there has been little evidence of why they are important. The researchers, led by Kate L. Jeffrey, PhD, and her collaborators found that AGO4 plays a key role protecting cells against viral infections.
Specifically, this protein is uniquely antiviral in mammalian immune cells. The group studied the anti-viral effects of several Argonaute proteins, and found that only cells that were deficient in AGO4 were “hyper-susceptible” to viral infection. In other words, low levels of AGO4 make mammalian cells more likely to become infected.
Read more at Massachusetts General Hospital