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Brothers in Arms
30 July 2015

Brothers in Arms

When a virus infects our cells, it’s broken down into small fragments, and its proteins are displayed on our cells’ surface by molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which collectively constitute our tissue type. The MHCs help our immune system to recognise when a cell is infected, so it can be targeted and destroyed. Because MHCs are the front-runners in battling viruses, the genes that encode them have to rapidly evolve. In humans, the MHC gene HLA-B*57:01 manages to keep HIV at very low levels, without the use of antiretroviral drugs. In chimps, researchers have found a gene equivalent of HLA-B*57:01, Patr-B*06:03. This chimp version is related to ours in structure, function and evolution and could help research into vaccine design for both species.

Written by Katie Panteli

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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