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New model can aid in understanding immune system diseases

University of Iowa News Release EMBARGOED UNTIL 11 A.M. CT (US), TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2004 New Model Can Aid In Understanding Immune System Diseases Researchers trying to understand diseases and develop new treatments can't always depend on existing tools or organisms to make discoveries; sometimes they first must create models of the problems they want to study.

Such is the case with Epstein-Barr, a common virus that is often harmless but likely contributes to malignancies and autoimmnune disease in people with compromised immunity. A University of Iowa team has engineered a mouse that provides new insights into the virus.

The animal model has implications for advancing treatments for patients with AIDS or an organ transplant who get a certain type of cancer, and for people with immune system diseases such as lupus, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The study results appear in the August issue of the journal Immunity.

The advance builds on previous UI studies done in cell culture and provides researchers with a model that allows them to see biological functions related to Epstein-Barr within the context of a whole organism, said Gail Bishop, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Internal Medicine in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and a research career scientist with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Iowa City Health Care System.

"Mice cannot be infected with Epstein-Barr because they do not have the receptor for this virus. What we have done is express in the mouse the most important transforming protein that is involved in the virus in humans," said Bishop, who also is associate director for basic science research at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

The Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the of herpes virus family, infects most people by adulthood, then remains latent (inactivated) after an initial and usually symptomless infection. People who get the
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Contact: Becky Soglin
becky-soglin@uiowa.edu
319-335-6660
University of Iowa
17-Aug-2004


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