© Pint of Science, 2018. All rights reserved.
Our immune system protects us from infection and disease, but how does it deal with an onslaught of parasitic viruses? Come join us for the final night where we examine how the body fights off these infectious agents and how it controls those who have already invaded the very fabric of our existence, our genomes.
Arms Race: Cell versus a Virus
Our cells evolved multiple defence mechanisms to inhibit virus replication and spread; in turn, viruses evolved proteins that can hijack these defence mechanism. It’s a constant evolutionary arms race: some viruses, such as herpes viruses, resolved to co-exist with the host and rarely cause diseases; others, such as HIV and Ebola, lead to serious diseases and can be lethal. Which viruses are most successful: the ones that kill or the ones that don't?
Swiping Right for Lifelong Immunity
Infection triggers two responses from the immune system: removing the invader and generating long term memory to shut down future infections before they take hold. A tool for both is antibodies, which are generated by a strenuous selection and reselection process, before ultimately swiping right. This talk will explain the set-up and rules of this ‘immunological Tinder’.
How we HUSH viruses
Remarkably, around 8% of the DNA in our genome originates from viruses, and there is mounting evidence that viral infections have shaped our evolution as a species. The majority of this 8% comes from a subset of viruses called retroviruses, a group that insert their genetic material into ours and coopt our cells to replicate more virus. One layer of our immune response is to regulate this replication by a process called epigenetic silencing. I will discuss our efforts to understand this silencing process, which is carried out by the aptly named Human Silencing Hub (HUSH) complex.