Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have identified a human protein that is instrumental in varicella-zoster virus' spread from cell to cell in the body (Li Q, Ali MA, and Cohen JI. Cell. 2006;127:305-316). The varicella-zoster virus, which causes both chickenpox and shingles, enters and infects cells by attaching to a cellular protein called insulin-degrading enzyme, their experiments revealed.
The investigators' in vitro studies showed that preventing a viral molecule, glycoprotein E, from binding to insulin-degrading enzyme in target cells inhibits the spread of the virus among cells. In addition, expression of human insulin-degrading enzyme in cell lines that do not normally become infected with varicella-zoster virus resulted in increased viral entry and enhanced infection.
Hampton T. Varicella-Zoster Virus Spread. JAMA. 2006;296(20):2429. doi:10.1001/jama.296.20.2429-b