Exosomes act as messengers and decoys to save healthy cells from viral infection

New research into how cells battle flu infection could point to new treatments

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a red cell releasing small red particles toward a blue cell

Dror Eliaz on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Our immune systems use several unique cells and their specific  products to fight viral infections. However, new research suggests that there may be another important factor at work. 

All cells regularly release small, orb-like compartments filled with a variety of cell proteins, nucleic acid, and other contents, called exosomes, to communicate their status with other cells. New research on cells infected with influenza shows that during an active infection, exosomes from infected cells send signals to  produce inflammation and immune responses to nearby cells, helping their neighbors get ahead on fighting the infection.  

The team also observed that, because the exosomes resemble the surfaces of other cells, they were able to trick the virus particles into attaching to them instead of entering healthy cells. These findings offer potential new strategies for therapeutics against viral infections such as influenza, as well as those from the coronavirus and rotavirus families, by mimicking exosomes to deliver anti-viral compounds or serving as decoys to prevent cell infection.