The Evolution of Immunity

Primitive type of immune system is key in developing new drugs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Researchers in Philadelphia have studied a "primitive" immune response still present in our bodies in hopes to better understand the molecular processes involved and be able to design drugs to prevent diseases such as stroke and heart attack.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have pinpointed an important sequence in one of the oldest branches of the human immune system: the "complement" system. This immune response "complements," or boosts, key antibodies that fight against infection. In contrast to "adaptive" immune response, complement response proteins form a network that works as a general defense, not only targeting specific antigens.

This important system has been found to play a huge role in stroke, heart attack and loss of vision in the elderly. The complement process involves communication between vast networks of cells, identifying harmful pathogens or dying cells and eliminating them to make room for new immune cells.

Dr. John Lambris, PhD and his team studied two enzyme complexes in the complement system: C3bB and C3bBD. By analyzing how the proteins bind to certain molecules, the researchers discovered an impressive and highly functional series of interactions which amplify the effectiveness of this general immune response.

These findings will allow researchers to design inhibitors that will target certain factors in the process that have been associated with serious health risks.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 27, 2010
Last Updated:
December 28, 2010