Even though throughout the past 25 years there have been tremendous advances in the field of biomedicine, infectious diseases with viral origins are still a severe problem in today's society due to the serious health, social, and economic impact associated with them. In this context, it is evident that prevention of and therapy for these diseases is especially relevant for both human and animal health.
One of our objectives is to develop DNA vaccines for rhabdovirus, using those that infect aquatic vertebrates as models. Nowadays, aquaculture is emerging as the only viable method for maintaining the presence of fish among the components in the human diet. However, until the aquaculture industry eradicates the problems related to losses resulting from outbreaks of infectious diseases caused by viruses, such as rhabdovirus, it will not be able to increase production levels and meet global demand. Therefore, the only viable control alternative is to develop vaccines that are effective, inexpensive, and respectful for the environment and consumer health. Because of this, our group strives to characterize the immune response induced by DNA vaccines through genomic (microarrays) and proteomic approaches. This is to determine the molecular basis of the protection conferred by these vaccines and, furthermore, the optimization of the vectors commonly used in genetic immunization. The objective for this is to eliminate the regulatory sequences with viral origins from them, which are currently impeding the use and commercialization of these vaccines despite the effectiveness shown by some of them.
Another objective focuses on examining wide spectrum antivirals, such as ribavirin and mycophenolic acid, using real time PCR to determine the effectiveness of such antivirals, as well as the stage of the virus replication cycle upon which they act.
A further objective of ours is the search for antivirals among molecules related with the innate immune response, the first line of defense of any organism against viral infection, by currently carrying out in vivo and in vitro assays with defensin-type antimicrobial peptides to control infections caused by rhabdovirus.
All of this seeks to learn the molecular basis that intervenes in protecting fish from viral infections, as well as the crucial stages of the infectious cycle of the viruses that cause pathologies in these organisms.
Yet another objective of ours is that of attempting to respond to the molecular mechanisms involved in the entry and replication of viruses by examining the structure, function, and interaction of structural and non-structural proteins with biomembranes. To accomplish this, the structure and localization of membrane proteins from enveloped viruses (HIV, HCV, dengue) is examined, as well as the molecular characterization of the interactions between the domains of such proteins and the specific components of the membranes. A multidisciplinary approach is used that combines spectroscopic techniques (NMR, IR, CD, fluorescence), structural bioinformatics, and molecular sweep using peptide libraries.
The importance of the infections produced by the viruses means that all these processes and the proteins that regulate them are considered molecular targets with significant therapeutic interest.