Scientists in the US and Canada have collaborated to identify a cellular process that seeks out and fights herpes virus- Type 1 herpes simplex (HSV-1).
The finding has uncovered a new way for our immune system to combat the elusive virus, which causes cold sores.
"Once human cells are infected with Type 1 herpes simplex, the virus comes back because it hides and blocks protection from our immune system. For the first time, our research team has identified a combative cellular mechanism in this game of hide-and-seek," Nature quoted Luc English, the study's lead author and a doctoral student at the Universiti de Montrial's Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, as saying.
He added: "We've found that the nuclear membrane of an infected cell can unmask Type 1 herpes simplex and stimulate the immune system to disintegrate the virus.
The discovery was made while the scientists were conducting various tests in HSV-1 infected mice cells.
They replicated environments when Type 1 herpes simplex thrives, namely periods of low-grade fever between 38.5 to 39 degrees, and found that herpes-fighting mechanisms were unleashed.
Now, the researchers are planning to study how activation of the herpes-combating cellular process could be applied to other illnesses.
And the results could speed up the development of therapies to prevent other immune-evading bacteria, parasites and viruses.
"Our goal is to further study the molecules implicated in this mechanism to eventually develop therapies against diseases such as HIV or even cancer," said English.
Dr. Michel Desjardins, senior author and a professor in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology at the Universiti de Montreal has said that one can imagine treatment options in a decade.
The study is published in the advance online edition of Nature Immunology.