Demand for new treatments
Public awareness of viruses and their impact on humanity has never been higher than right now, and likewise the demand for new, effective treatments.
Virology focuses on all of the following aspects of viruses – from their structure, classification and evolution, to their ways of infecting and exploiting host cells for reproduction, their interaction with host organism physiology and immunity, the diseases they cause, the techniques to isolate and culture them and their use in research and therapy.
ILC’s interest in virology has concentrated on the use of semi-synthetic, interferon-alphas for the treatment of pandemic viruses (e.g. SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV2). This has been expanded to include several other viruses as the many faceted antiviral mechanisms invoked by interferons have evolved over 350 million years to protect us from virtually any viral infection.
Quality of life impacts
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin that affects around 15-20% of children and 1-3% of adults. Almost 19% of children do not respond to current treatments.
According to the World Health Organisation, the quality of life impacts on children with atopic dermatitis are second only to cerebral palsy among childhood disorders.
Atopic dermatitis is believed to be triggered when the body loses control over the innate immune system at the level of the keratinocytes that make up the skin.
Although there may be a genetic element to this activation, alarmins (e.g. IL-33) are probably activated by a variety of environmental conditions, which then go on to trigger an unwanted immune response.
Search for a cure
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin affecting between 1-5% of the world’s population – more than 100 million people.
It tends to appear between the ages of 15 and 35 years and causes patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales that itch or feel sore. It can be mild and localised to the hands or severe and cover large areas of the body.
Considerable positive progress has been made in treatments recently, with the introduction of a large number of monoclonal antibodies to IL-17A, TNF-alpha, or IL-23.
Unfortunately, there is strong evidence of resistance arising to these therapies after three to four years in a significant number of patients.
Natural killer cells
Immuno-oncology is an emerging field that has revolutionised cancer treatment. Most immuno-modulatory strategies focus on
enhancing T-cell responses but there has been a recent surge of
interest in harnessing the relatively under-explored natural killer
NK cells show cytotoxic activity against diverse tumour cell types, and some of the clinical approaches originally developed to increase T-cell cytotoxicity may also activate NK cells. Moreover, increasing numbers of studies have identified novel methods for increasing NK cell anti-tumour immunity and expanding NK cell populations ex vivo, thereby paving the way for a new generation of anti-cancer immunotherapies.
The essential role of interferons is currently being defined in NK cells and other innate lymphoid cells.