Carl Bruder, PhD
Systems biology approaches to understand host response mechanisms of influenza
The annual influenza epidemics result in about three to five million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths worldwide. Development of vaccines and antiviral drugs, hitting a broad range of different influenza strains is of uttermost importance to reduce the global threat of this virus.
In this research we put forward ways to identify key components in the host response to infection of one of the recently emerged pandemic influenza strains. We are utilizing the ferret animal model in combination with state of the art systems biology techniques to comprehensively characterize the host machinery used by influenza virus in mammalians. The ferret is an excellent model for influenza as it is naturally infected with the same strains, the virus uses the same molecules to enter the epithelial cells and it develops similar clinical symptoms as humans. Recent advances in next generation sequencing allow for careful analysis of the transcriptome, making it especially well suited for non-standard animal models where microarrays are incomplete. Systematic approaches like these can identify gene signatures involved in viral entry, nuclear import and replication and provide information on innate immune response pathways induced by the infection. The signatures can be used to assess the strength of the adaptive immune response, and thus also to predict protective immunity after vaccination.