How cells protect themselves
It’s good to avoid cholesterol in food, but the body actually uses cholesterol to protect itself against viral attacks. A study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe gives scientists an inside look into how the body fights off viruses.
When a virus enters the body, the immune system responds by sending hundreds of proteins to attack the virus and prevent it from infecting cells and spreading through the body. But, until now, little was known about how exactly this happens.
Researchers found that one of the proteins dispatched to the virus is one called IFITM3. This protein is responsible for disrupting communication between two other proteins in the body. And this disruption increases the levels of cholesterol in the cells. The increase in cholesterol makes a cell’s wall, which is usually fluid and penetrable, rigid and impenetrable. This cellular shift in cholesterol concentration essentially fortifies the cell against the virus interlopers.
The new understanding of the body’s natural means of protection against viruses should help scientists develop anti-viral drug therapies.