News of Note—A protein’s folds allow flu to invade cells; Boosting the immune fight against prostate cancer

A nurse preparing a medical injection
New insight into the mechanism by which influenza invades cells could improve vaccine development. (Getty/scyther5)

Understanding how flu hijacks cells could lead to better virus treatments
Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that a protein called hemagglutinin (HA), which lives on the surface of flu cells, unfolds and refolds as many as 10 times per second. This feat helps virus cells enter healthy cells and hijack their normal functions. The discovery, reported in the journal Cell, was made using an imaging technology called single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET), which helped the team visualize the changing shapes of HA molecules. Surface proteins are the only elements of viruses that the immune system recognizes, so the new insight into how HA operates could inspire ideas for improved treatments and vaccines for flu and other viruses, the scientists report. (Release)

How a psoriasis treatment could improve prostate cancer outcomes
Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in the U.K. have discovered a form of immunotherapy that could prevent prostate cancer patients from becoming resistant to hormone therapy. They found that they could use a drug that’s currently on the market to treat psoriasis to block a protein, IL-23. Inhibiting the protein, which is produced by immune cells called granulocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells, made resistant cancer cells sensitive to hormone therapy again, they reported in the journal Nature. They are now planning a combination trial of an IL-23 blocker with Xtandi, a testosterone-lowering prostate cancer drug from Pfizer and Astellas. (Release)

New gene discovery sheds light on immune responses to disease
Scientists in Australia discovered a gene called C6orf106 that directs the production of a number of proteins that orchestrate the body’s immune reponse. The proteins, called cytokines, prevent pathogens from replicating and causing disease. The gene prevents an overly aggressive immune response by switching certain cytokines off, they reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The team believes further investigation of C6orf106 will enable the development of targeted therapies for diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer. (Release)

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