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Meet RIPK3: Good Cop, Bad Cop, all in one

Canadian scientists develop a biological weapon using our immune response to combat the flu

Feb 14, 2018

Montreal — Each year, influenza kills half a million people globally with the elderly and very young most often the victims. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 37 children have died in the United States during the current flu season. Aside from getting the flu shot and employing smart hand hygiene, there are no other methods of prevention. However, a team of scientists from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University, led by Immunologist Dr. Maziar Divangahi, have discovered a protein that could soon help minimize the impact of the influenza season and become a critical player in the fight against lung infections.

Dr. Divangahi’s lab at the Glen site of the RI-MUHC in Montreal has taken on the challenge of trying to understand how the mechanisms of the immune system fight the flu in the hopes of finding new immunotherapies to combat the virus. The discovery of the RIPK3 protein that is involved in the regulation of immune response to the flu means help may be on the horizon. Their findings were published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.

RI-MUHC scientists have long been interested in understanding the immune system in relation to influenza. They already knew a type of protein called type I IFN (produced by macrophages, a type of white blood cell) which stimulates cells to block virus production. In the case of the flu, type I IFN helps in restricting the replication of the flu virus in our lungs. But the question remained: how did the type I IFN networks operate and what mechanisms were involved to promote their efficacy? Read more