West Nile virus studies show how star-shaped brain cells cope with infection

Mar 31, 2009

A new study published as the cover article for the April 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal promises to give physicians new ways to reduce deadly responses to viral infections of the brain and spinal cord. In the report, scientists from Columbia University, NY, detail for the first time the chemical processes that star-shaped nerve cells, called astrocytes, use to handle invading viruses and to summon other immune cells to cause life-threatening inflammation.

"Studies such as this take us one step closer to understanding both the risk and benefit associated with antiviral immune response and may lead to new treatment strategies," said W. Ian Lipkin, the senior researcher involved in the study, who also is the director of Columbia's Center for Infection and Immunity, and led the team that first identified the presence of in New York in 1999.

In this study, Lipkin and colleagues cultured astrocytes from the brains of newborn mice and exposed the cells to a West Nile virus-like molecule (called Poly I:C), either from outside or inside the brain cell membranes. After various laboratory experiments, the researchers identified the (such as a protein called MDA-5) that astrocytes use to "see" viral invaders. They also identified recognition molecules on the astrocytes that initiate and control the central nervous system's immune responses.

"Ironically, the cells we use to monitor and to protect out brain—the astrocytes—are among those we know the least about," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal. "We do know, however, that inflammation of the brain caused by the West Nile virus affects these star-shaped cells and makes the disease difficult to treat .We can use this new understanding of astrocytes not only to devise treatments for viral invaders from abroad, but also from deadly viruses closer to home.

More information: Joari De Miranda, Kavitha Yaddanapudi, Mady Hornig, and W. Ian Lipkin. Astrocytes recognize intracellular polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid via MDA-5. FASEB J. 2009 23: 1064-1071. www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/abstract/23/4/1064

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Explore further: Better living through mitochondrial derived vesicles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain cells help neighboring nerves regenerate

May 27, 2008

Researchers have uncovered a completely unexpected way that the brain repairs nerve damage, wherein cells known as astrocytes deliver a protective protein to nearby neurons.

New findings disprove old truth about brain cells

Nov 16, 2006

The most common cells in the brain changes their behavior when the tissue is damaged, but their appearance does not change nearly to the extent that researchers thought. The domains of individual astrocytes are well contained ...

Neural progenitor cells as reservoirs for HIV in the brain

Mar 04, 2008

Impaired brain function is a prominent and still unsolved problem in AIDS . Shortly after an individual becomes infected with HIV, the virus can invade the brain and persist in this organ for life. Many HIV-infected individuals ...

Recommended for you

Student seeks to improve pneumonia vaccines

11 hours ago

Almost a million Americans fall ill with pneumonia each year. Nearly half of these cases require hospitalization, and 5-7 percent are fatal. Current vaccines provide protection against some strains of the ...

Seabed solution for cold sores

12 hours ago

The blue blood of abalone, a seabed delicacy could be used to combat common cold sores and related herpes virus following breakthrough research at the University of Sydney.

Better living through mitochondrial derived vesicles

Aug 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—As principal transformers of bacteria, organelles, synapses, and cells, vesicles might be said to be the stuff of life. One need look no further than the rapid rise to prominence of The ...

Zebrafish help to unravel Alzheimer's disease

Aug 19, 2014

New fundamental knowledge about the regulation of stem cells in the nerve tissue of zebrafish embryos results in surprising insights into neurodegenerative disease processes in the human brain. A new study by scientists at ...

User comments : 0