Investigating envelope viruses: Tissue factor clotting research earns a first-ranked CIHR Project Grant

Thursday, April 14, 2022 Abby Wolfe

How are our normal blood clotting systems affected by viral infections? Could clues to the successful treatment of some of the world’s most challenging viral infections come from understanding how viruses interact with our body’s clot-creating proteins?

These are the kinds of questions that Dr. Ed Pryzdial, Canadian Blood Services senior scientist and his laboratory team at the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) in British Columbia have dedicated research efforts to answering; efforts that have recently earned them project funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), based on a research proposal that was ranked first by the review committee.

Tissue factor research

The proposed research focuses on a special protein called tissue factor. Tissue factor acts as a catalyst for the mechanisms that prevent the loss of blood and is present throughout the body. If bleeding occurs, it is tissue factor that initiates the cascade of reactions that will begin to form a clot and carefully plug the flow of blood. Its role in this clotting process has made tissue factor an intriguing study for Dr. Pryzdial whose lab has already published important learnings from studies focusing on tissue factor.

Recently, their findings on the interaction between tissue factor and glycoproteins like CD248 have been summarized in this CBR blog, while a previous R.E.D blog described their research on a protein made by the cold sore virus that mimics tissue factor function. They have also found that tissue factor can be integrated directly into the surfaces of certain viruses.

Now, they’re taking their tissue factor knowledge and scaling it up to investigate other viruses, seeking to understand more about how viruses take advantage of our body’s blood clotting mechanisms to increase their detrimental effects.

A first-ranked CIHR Project

Supported by the CIHR Project Grant’s $1.14m over 5 years, Dr. Pryzdial and his co-investigator, Dr. Marc Horwitz (UBC), will be studying the interaction between our blood clotting system and viruses like HIV, dengue virus and the cold sore virus, as well as hepatitis C and the COVID-19 virus. These viruses are known as ‘envelope viruses’ because of the membrane that covers their surface, and they have massive impact on global health and worldwide healthcare costs.

“Finding a single molecule, namely tissue factor, that is common to the diseases caused by many if not all enveloped viruses is a first.” Dr. Pryzdial explains, “Our ultimate goal is to learn how to target this viral tissue factor to treat a wide-range of infections and fill a serious deficiency in global healthcare.”

To receive a CIHR Project Grant, applications must “capture ideas with the greatest potential to advance health-related fundamental or applied knowledge, health research, health care, health systems, and/or health outcomes”. As one of only 417 of 2014 funded applications from CIHR’s Fall 2021 competition, this work has the potential to make a big impact on health care and health outcomes in the future.

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact. 

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.


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