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Australian scientists discover ‘survival’ gene

4 December 2012

Australian scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute* in Melbourne, working with colleagues at the University of Toronto in Canada, have discovered a ‘survival’ gene that could hold the key to treating and potentially controlling chronic infections such as HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis.

The scientists’ findings were published today in the prestigious journal Nature Immunology.

The newly discovered gene, Arih2, is essential for embryo survival. It is also fundamental to the function of the immune system and responsible for deciding whether to switch on immune response to an infection.

This discovery has implications for the treatment of chronic overwhelming infections, such as HIV, that switch off the immune system, as well as for chronic inflammatory (also known as autoimmune) conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis.

The Australian team was led by Dr Marc Pellegrini and Dr Greg Ebert from Walter and Eliza Hall’s Infection and Immunity division.

The gene study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the government of the Australian State of Victoria.

*The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, affiliated with The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, is the oldest medical research institute in Australia, set to celebrate its centenary in 2015.

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