S'pore scientists discover way to switch on body's 'innate immunity'

PHOTO: S'pore scientists discover way to switch on body's 'innate immunity'

SINGAPORE - In a first for science, A*STAR scientists have discovered the molecular 'switch' which directly triggers the body's first line of defence against pathogens, more accurately known as the body's "innate immunity".

The scientists from Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) under A*STAR found that when the 'switch' is turned on, it activates the production of interferons.

Interferons are a potent class of virus killers that enables the body to fight harmful pathogens such as dengue and influenza viruses.

While there are anti-viral drugs to treat influenza, the high rate of mutation that is characteristic of the virus has made it difficult to treat with one universal drug or vaccine.

As for dengue, there are currently no clinically approved vaccines or cures.

This discovery of the switch, called Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK), paves the way for developing anti-viral drugs that target its role in fighting infectious diseases.

Professor Kong-Peng Lam, Acting Executive Director of BTI and the Head of the Immunology Group that conducted the research, said that this study is significant in that it adds new insights to the understanding of how the body's innate immunity is triggered to create an effective immune response.

"It is a prime example of how better understanding in basic biological systems brings us a step closer to understanding the mechanism of human diseases, and enables us to find more effective treatment strategies to combat deadly viral diseases, which we have yet to find cures for," he said.