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Cure for viruses. This is HUGE.

I just saw this, and I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. This is like being there at the discovery of penicillin.

MIT researchers have found a way to cure viral diseases, any viral diseases, from common colds through dengue and up to HIV. (Press release [1], PLoS One [2] research article.) This is one huge, massive, “Wow!”

Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells’ own defense systems.

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose — that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells. …

Rider had the idea to combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) — launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous. Therefore, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

And here’s the result:

results of antiviral DRACO in infected and uninfected cells

What that shows is DRACO did not damage healthy cells at all. That’s the top row of each set of images. Infected cells, the bottom row, died without treatment (the lower left images in each set), and were indistinguishable from healthy ones with treatment (the lower right images).

Can you imagine? We could just laugh at viruses! Ebola? Hahahaha! (As I say, I’m a mite over-excited.)

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "Cure for viruses. This is HUGE."

#1 Comment By katiebird On 13 Aug, 2011 @ 05:35

Wow!! And how hard will it be to begin implementing this knowledge as an actual treatment?

Is it expensive? Is it difficult to produce?

#2 Comment By quixote On 16 Aug, 2011 @ 06:01

Hi katiebird! The implementation is always my question, too.

Once the compound is synthesized, I don’t know that it would be that much more difficult to manufacture than any other genetically engineered drug. Insulin and much of the hormone replacement therapy are mass market drugs made using engineered bacteria. Of course, I also don’t know if it might not be hugely more complicated.

Those drugs aren’t cheap but they’re not $1000 per application either.

Then there’s the whole issue of how hard it will be to make a shelf-stable version. I mean, ideally, it would keep in a rural tropical village and on a shelf for years in a supermarket.

As for when we’re likely to see a version, there’s the whole seven year clinical testing phase, and that’s after all the basic research is done, so … who knows. Be nice if it all worked and they fast tracked it!