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Immune Protein Flutters Like a Butterfly

There’s a lot that we do not know about how viruses work; however, the continued work by research teams across the world is changing this. For example, a group of researchers at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School recently pinpointed a vital step in the process that allows the body to fight viruses. In fact, their research also revealed how mutations that derail this process to fight viruses lead to autoimmune disorders.

The Immune System Works Like a Butterfly

A virus spreads by replicating itself within a host cell. The immune system has intricate mechanisms in place that help to defend against both common viruses and emerging viruses. Researchers studied the process in which RIG-I (an immune protein) searches for viral RNAs. Once the RIG-I finds a viral RNA, it activates the antiviral response of the cell in which it was found.

A butterfly constantly flutters to and from anything that looks like a flower. Like a butterfly, the RIG-I immune receptor constantly investigates the RNAs in the cell in order to identify viral RNAs. Essentially, RIG-I (and butterflies) are involved in a continuous cycle of association and disassociation. Once the RIG-I discovers a viral RNA, it stops its search and signals its multiple molecules to gather on the viral RNA, which in turn, activates the antiviral response of the cell.

RIG-I immune receptors are supposed to move on if they do not identify viral RNAs. However, an autoimmune disorder known as Singleton-Merton syndrome interrupts this process. Instead of moving on to other RNAs, mutated versions of the immune receptors remain and become trapped in the RNAs, causing abnormal immune responses.

The research revealing the details of this process could potentially be used to leverage RIG-I immune receptors in both antiviral and cancer therapies. Stay up-to-date on all the latest health-related discoveries and news by visiting us at The Benefits Store today.


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