Hide and Seek: Unravelling the Strategies Viruses Use to Evade the Immune Response
Viruses are responsible for a significant number of human and animal diseases, many of which are currently untreatable. During the course of evolution, viruses adapt to ensure their own survival by exploiting and manipulating cellular signalling pathways, and preventing the host from detecting and destroying them.
As Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and Pathogenesis, Dr. Michele Barry is exploring how viruses hide from their hosts’ immune systems. Her work will focus on poxviruses related to variola, the virus responsible for smallpox—one of the most devastating known diseases in the world.
Poxviruses are extremely good at counteracting host immune responses, and have recently been shown to interfere with cellular signalling pathways that regulate cells’ anti-viral functions. It is estimated that at least 50 per cent of the poxvirus genome is dedicated to proteins that interfere with immune functions.
Using a combination of molecular biology and proteomics (the study of proteins in genomes), Barry will explore how poxviruses conceal their activities by destroying signalling proteins and interfering with key signalling pathways involved in apoptosis, a process that destroys infected cells to prevent viruses from spreading.
Barry’s work will help researchers better understand the complex interaction between virus and host, providing insights into strategies for treating viral infections.