Volume 11, Number 10 February 6, 2004

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Team works to find NEMO

The key discovery of two proteins that play a role in the stress responses within cells could lead to new approaches to drugs designed to treat cancer and other deadly viral infections like SARS and HIV.

As reported in the journal Nature, the research by Wei Xiao, head of the microbiology and immunology department at the U of S, and his team, working in collaboration with California scientists studying immune response, focused on finding NEMO, a tiny protein that acts like a switch, turning on cells’ immune responses. This response is essential in the cells’ efforts to defend the body against viral and bacterial infections.

The U of S researchers discovered two proteins that motivate NEMO, trigger the immune response and cause the cells to multiply rapidly. While this is useful in combating infection, Xiao warns that “if the chain reaction gets activated all the time, without the presence of an invader, the result is uncontrolled cell division and tumours.”

Antibodies capable of acting on the two proteins have been licensed for research by the U of S scientists and, in future, this work could enable researchers to boost the immune response to fight infection, or halt uncontrolled cell division that could lead to cancer.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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