ABCD Merial Young Scientist Award (AMYSA) for Basic Research
Publication date: 17/09/2012
This year's ABCD/Merial Young Scientist Award (AMYSA) for Basic Research went to Dr. vet. med. Celine Robert-Tissot (left), PhD, Clinical Laboratory, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Switzerland, for her work entitled "The innate Antiviral immune System of the Domestic Cat". The jury ranked her submission first, on the basis of the submitted material, but also on her past performance in research, the number and quality of the supporting publications and the respective journal impact factors. The study was qualified as well-structured (being part of a PhD program) and pointing towards possible applications; also the sheer amount of work and the experimental sophistication were lauded.
A first objective of the study was to develop tools for measuring innate immune responses to feline viruses both in vitro and in vivo, and to assess possibilities to prophylactically stimulate innate antiviral mechanisms. Real-time quantitative PCR systems were developed to measure the expression of 12 feline genes being hallmarks of innate responses to viral infection. These tools were then employed to evaluate innate immune parameters in infection models, in order to obtain information about the strength, breadth and kinetics of antiviral defences in feline cells. The assays were then utilised to assess the immunomodulatory potential of synthetic immune response modifiers (lRMs) in feline cells in vitro. The main subject of the award application was to portray the immunomodulatory effects of ODN 2216, an oligonucleotide that induced the most potent response in feline cells. The drug not only altered the gene expression profile of feline peripheral blood mononuclear cells in an antiviral orientation, but also enhanced their proliferation, increasing the presence on their surface of costimulatory molecules necessary for the diffusion of immunological defence signals. Moreover, the supernatants of ODN 2216-stimulated cells inhibited the replication of feline calici-, herpes-, parvo-, corona- and leukaemia viruses.
Finally, the systemic effects of a single subcutaneous injection of ODN 2216 in the domestic cat were evaluated. In the absence of undesired side effects, antiviral defence mechanisms were increased for approximately 96 hours following injection, both in blood and at peripheral sites of viral entry including conjunctival, oral and intestinal mucosae. Administration of ODN 2216 to animals prior to a stay at a cattery or a shelter could therefore restrict viral transmission in situations of increased infectious pressure.