Researchers have identified genes that may be involved in determining whether an individual is sensitive or resistant to rabies virus infection. Through a screening method involving mouse embryonic stem cells, the investigators uncovered 63 genes, some with roles in the immune response, that represent potential targets for prevention or treatment. The wide variety of functions of the genes that were identified points to numerous interactions between the host and the virus at all stages of infection.
"Our study is the first to show that libraries of mutant stem cells can be differentiated into different cell types en mass and screened to identify meaningful genes involved in a cell's response to infection," says Dr. Deeann Wallis, lead author of the Stem Cells study. "Moreover, this technique can be used to identify host-based genes involved in any type bacterial or viral infection, or even response to drugs, toxins, or radiation. This is a relatively novel way for researchers to discover gene function and assess host response."