McKeating Lab discoveries in fight against viral infections

Prof Jane McKeating’s research group has made two recent discoveries that open new pathways for the treatment of viral infections. The studies have been highlighted in the University of Oxford Science Blog.

Hypoxia drugs join the fight against COVID-19

Oxygen is essential to all life forms, even viruses. 

Dr Peter Wing and Dr Tom Keeley, working in the laboratories of Prof Jane McKeating, Prof Peter Ratcliffe and Dr Tammie Bishop in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, have been using their knowledge of cellular responses to oxygen levels to explore the potential of hypoxia-inducing drugs to limit replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

They recently published research demonstrating that a low oxygen environment supressed SARS-CoV-2 entry into cells that line the lungs and reduced viral propagation and shedding. The results show promising opportunities to develop or repurpose current hypoxia-inducing drugs that could exploit the Covid-19 virus’s vulnerability to oxygen dependency.

Can viruses hijack their hosts' circadian rhythms?

Most living things are aware of the time of day and respond through endogenous biological rhythms, with an approximate cycle of 24 hours. This “circadian clock” controls a range of biological processes including hormone secretion, metabolic cycling and immune protection against pathogens. More recently, the circadian clock has been shown to influence viral infection by altering the host pathways essential for their replication.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a globally important pathogen, with over 270 million individuals infected and at risk of developing liver disease or cancer. A cure for this virus is urgently needed. Dr Xiaodong Zhuang, a researcher in Prof Jane McKeating’s laboratory, recently showed that circadian rhythms influence HBV replication. This research found that the key circadian transcription factor (BMAL1) binds the HBV genome. This ‘intimate’ virus-host interaction promotes viral infection in cells and in animals models, providing exciting avenues for the discovery of new anti-viral drugs. Interesting questions remain to be answered as to whether HBV infection can 'reset' the clock and how this may impact liver cancer development.

About Jane McKeating

Cellular Life theme