Newly Discovered Gene May Be Key to Treating HIV and Hepatitis

By Jay Jordan

A newly discovered gene that is responsible for turning the body’s response on or off could be a key to treating infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

The gene, Arih2, is critical to the functioning of the body’s immune system, determining whether or not to switch on the body’s immune system in response to an infection. Researchers discovered that when the gene is turned on it dampens the body’s immune response, while when it is turned off it greatly enhances the body’s immune response.

The research, published this week in the journal Nature Immunology, was led by Dr. Marc Pellegrini, Dr. Greg Ebert and colleagues at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia. Researchers have currently only tested the gene in mice, but hope it may eventually be used as a target for drugs to treat a variety of diseases that evade or switch off the immune system, including HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, as well as chronic autoimmune functions such as rheumatoid arthritis.