Microbes have been present on planet Earth longer than us, humans, and they become our life companions from the moment we are born. They are building, protecting and feeding our bodies.
Viruses, small infectious agents that replicate only inside the living cells of other organisms, have been around for billions of years. They can infect all types of life forms, from microorganisms, plants and animals to humans. It has been estimated that there are 10 to the power of 31 viruses on Earth, but humans don’t just live in a viral world, we are also part virus ourselves. Viruses actually comprise up to the 8% of the human genome and these so called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) represent ancient viral infections that became integrated into the human genome.
Recent drug discoveries promise new treatments and cures for many diseases. However, getting a drug to work, not only in experiments with cells in the lab, but also in the human body, is difficult. One challenge? Getting past the body’s line of defense, the immune system, which fights foreign invaders that make it into the body.
A group of Slovenian researchers have discovered how the receptor of the immune system TLR4 (Toll-like receptor 4) works in rheumatoid arthritis. The receptor plays an important role in many diseases, including cancer.