Dr. Ling Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, is currently trying to understand how certain enzymes in the body are prevented from repairing DNA in individuals suffering from viral infections.
“Chronic viral infection can build DNA damage and accelerate premature aging of some cells,” Wang said. “But how some pathways in the body are prohibited from preventing these things from happening remains poorly understood.”
Through an ETSU Research Development Committee grant, Wang aims to better understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying immune aging in chronic viral infection and develop effective ways to restore the body’s ability to produce a normal response to many infectious diseases.
“Understanding such a mechanism is essential for designing strategies to maintain host immunity for virus control and vaccine response,” she said.
Wang believes the inhibition of the enzyme known as ATM, or ataxia telangiectasia-mutated protein, accelerates DNA damage and the erosion of a person’s T-cells, cells that actively participate in the immune response.
“So, restoring the ATM pathway may open a new avenue to prevent unwanted DNA damage and T-cell aging, and that would help maintain a patient’s ability to respond to the chronic infection,” she explained. “In essence, manipulating the ATM pathway could rescue the impaired immune responses.”