The role of innate immune regulation in viral pathogenesis and the development of anti-viral T cell memory

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Ian Humphreys

    Cardiff University

Project summary

Our body’s immune system protects us from infection, but sometimes it overreacts and causes organ damage. A protein called interferon-induced transmembrane protein 3 (IFITM3) limits severe viral diseases. IFITM3 is known to stop some viruses dividing but I discovered that it also suppresses overactive immune responses, known generally as inflammation that is triggered by viruses.

I will study cytomegalovirus, a virus that causes disease in people with a suppressed immune system and young children. My study will find out how IFITM3 limits inflammation and I will examine whether targeting these pathways can help treat clinical problems caused by virus-induced inflammation. Vaccinations work by triggering immunological memory that can remember, respond to and control infections. Cytomegalovirus promotes long-lasting strong immunological memory. Studying how this virus triggers memory could help with the design of vaccinations – and a safe version of cytomegalovirus could be used as a vaccine. I will identify early events required for cytomegalovirus-triggered immunological memory formation and identify whether factors that dampen these responses can be targeted to enhance immune protection afforded by safe cytomegalovirus-based vaccines.

My findings will uncover how early inflammatory events can be inhibited to treat clinical problems caused by virus-induced inflammation and be enhanced to improve vaccine-induced immune protection.