UVA Researchers Link Immune Cells, Weight Control, Disease Resistance

February 10, 2016 by klm3b@virginia.edu

Researchers Identify Genetic Factors Governing Immune Response to Viruses

New research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has shown how our DNA determines our ability to fight off viruses, revealing that many genes work together to control immune cells, tissue inflammation, even our body weight after infection. The research could one day allow doctors to tweak immune cells to enhance their ability to destroy viruses, and it may also assist in the development of new vaccines, among other benefits.

“What’s really intriguing about our results is that the parts of chromosomes that control body weight — the ability to control body weight after infection — and the ability to control immune cells after infection tend to coincide, with similar genetic mapping positions,” said Michael G. Brown, PhD, of UVA’s Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research. “So we think similar genes are controlling those features, which ultimately affects an individual’s ability to fight off an infection, or not.”

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