Professor Čičin-Šain has identified the key factor that viruses use to paralyse immune defense mechanisms of their hosts
Defense cells constantly patrol our tissues to detect pathogens. If they find body cells invaded by a virus, they instruct the infected to destroy themselves by a range of mechanisms that share a central switch. Viruses can block this important switch and thus prevent the cellular self-destruction. This discovery was made by the team around RESIST researcher Professor Dr. Luka Čičin-Šain at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig.

“Our findings lead to a paradigm shift in viral research and the interaction of viruses with the immune system,” says the virologist, who is dedicated to cytomegalovirus (CMV) research. Professor Čičin-Šain described the observed mechanism at the molecular level, in animal models and during the infection of human cells. Previously, it was assumed that the viruses suppressed antigen presentation. Professor Čičin-Šain is certain that the survival mechanism described now will be identified in the same or similar way in the context of other viral infections.

The article is based on a press release of the HZI by Ulrike Schneeweiß. The original publication “Cytomegalovirus inhibition of extrinsic apoptosis determines fitness and resistance to cytotoxic CD8 T cells” can be found in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences“.