I asked Frank Jordan, whose knowledge of the immune system always fascinates me to offer us an education on this headline that I found on science daily: Immune System sets ‘tripwire’ to protect against viruses: Cell defenses have evolved to turn the tables on viral attacks by using bait and sounding an alarm. He kindly expounded upon it and his response made sense to me. Here it is for all of us to read;
Viruses are Public Enemy #1 of human health at present as the coronaviruses continue in a pandemic to attack millions with COVID-19 and new variants almost weekly. To fight back the immune system takes a small piece of a substance called an antigen and presents this to the immune system to determine whether the immune cells will respond if the antigen indicates a pathogen threatening to the body. But this immune system process of recognize, respond and resolve takes time; usually 5 to 7 days.
A major issue is a virus replicates and multiplies rapidly, often mutating into a new virus variant. If the immune system can more rapidly respond and stop this replication, the virus can cease to survive. How does this newly discovered rapid response immune defense work?
No shots or pills are initially involved, but the human must make efforts to avoid a compromised immune system. In other words, if the immune system components are not optimized to perform as normal, the mechanism for the newly discovered deterrent will be less effective. Unfortunately, most humans today are immunocompromised due to fungal and other pathogen presence plus poor lifestyle.
The new defense star is the human protein NLRP1 which sounds an alarm to the immune system to respond to a viral pathogen invasion. UC Berkeley Biological Science graduate students in seeking deterrents to Picornaviridae viruses that include poliovirus, hand, foot and mouth disease and rhinoviruses responsible for the common cold, have made a potentially major advancement in virology.
These Picornaviridae viruses generate proteases that cut the NLRP1 protein which when sounds the alarm for an immediate immune cell response to attack the virus involved. Sort of like the metal detector at the airport. The research also indicated the NLRP1 is enhanced in effectiveness by the need for a Picornaviridae virus to cut the NLRP1 protein in order to complete the process of replication and survival.
Brian Tsu, head researcher states, “In our paper we’re showing that NLRP1 acts to bait viral protease cleavage and set off a sort of alarm, or tripwire, in the organism.” This almost immediate alarm in response to the viral presence helps stop viral multiplication. This halting of viral replication should minimize viral damages to the body and, if also effective on additional virus forms, could be a major development in utilization of a natural immune response working 24/7 as a viral deterrent with no significant cost or negative side effects.
Brian V Tsu, Christopher Beierschmitt, Andrew P. Ryan, Rimjhim Agarwal, Patrick S. Mitchell, Matthew D. Daugherty. Diverse viral proteases activate the NLRP1 inflammasome. eLife, 2021; 10 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.60609