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Sep 19, 2005
 |  BioCentury  |  Tools & Techniques

Renewing defensins

Defensins, which are short peptides that are part of the innate immune system, have been known for a quarter of a century. Last week, researchers described in Nature Immunologythe mechanism by which certain defensins act as viral entry inhibitors. In addition, the researchers told BioCentury that they are working on a way to manufacture defensins using recombinant techniques, which could remove the cost barrier that has prevented industry from pursuing them.

Genes for three classes of defensins have been described in humans: alpha, beta and theta. Alpha and beta defensins have been known for about 25 and 15 years, respectively. Alpha defensins are expressed in the intestine and white blood cells. Beta defensins are found on the surface of epithelial cells.

Theta defensins were first described in 1999. Though their RNA is expressed in human white blood cells and muscle cells, theta defensin peptides have not been shown to be made in humans because of a stop...

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