PhD student Christina Guzzo is the lead author of a new study that links a protein called IL-27 to inflammation. Inflammation plays an important role in autoimmune diseases like HIV.
The study found that a protein secreted by cells in the immune system enhances the inflammatory immune response. The presence of inflammation can make autoimmune diseases worse or slow the immune response against microbial infection, notes Katrina Gee, an assistant professor in the department of microbiology and immunology.
Little is known about the protein called IL-27 that was first identified and described in 2002. In a previous study the team found that HIV may suppress IL-27, a critical concept in treatment development.
People with HIV are often on a cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs that target different aspects of the virus. Studying proteins like IL-27 can lead to increased effectiveness of those drugs.
“We hope this means that eventually we could identify new markers of disease development that would help determine the severity of the disease or, conversely, how well the immune system is battling the infection,” says Dr. Gee.
PhD student Christina Guzzo is the lead author on the study. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Next, the team plans to characterize how IL-27 can induce this pro-inflammatory response, and possibly enhance the body’s response to viral infections.