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The left panel shows treated and untreated cells in regards to the common cold virus (rhinovirus) while the right panel shows treated and untreated monkey cells in regards to dengue hemorrhagic fever virus  (Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers (DRACOs) could be the answer for terminating viruses like H1N1 influenza, stomach viruses, a polio virus, several types of hemorrhagic fever and dengue fever

Viruses like the common cold and influenza are infections that we occasionally must ride out. All anyone can really do is rest and take medications to ease the symptoms, which can range from congestion to fever to vomiting. Other viruses, such as Ebola, can be potentially fatal due to Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

While many bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, not many viral infections can be treated with medications. Only a "handful" can fight viruses, like the protease inhibitors to control HIV, but most other treatments only relieve the symptoms, and even that can take several days in some cases. Viruses are difficult to attack because they change and replicate in healthy cells.

But now, a team of researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory may have found the cure for the common cold as well as many other viruses like H1N1 influenza, stomach viruses, a polio virus, several types of hemorrhagic fever and dengue fever. The team, led by Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory's Chemical, Biological and Nanoscale Technologies Group, created therapeutic agents called Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers (DRACOs) which have successfully terminated viral infections.

Viruses infect cells by taking over the cell entirely and multiplying. While making copies of themselves, the viruses also produce long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). This is not found in animal or human cells.

To fight these infected cells, healthy human cells have proteins that bind to dsRNA, which then prompts a series of reactions that work to stop the virus from making copies of itself. The problem is that the virus can block one of the healthy cells' series of steps to prevent its replication somewhere down the line, allowing the virus to change and further reproduce once again.

To remedy this problem, Rider and his team mixed a dsRNA protein with another protein that causes cells to go through apoptosis, which is programmed cell suicide. One end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA while the other end is instructed to launch cell suicide.

Also, each DRACO consists of a "delivery tag" that they received from naturally occurring proteins. This allows it to enter any human or animal by crossing cell membranes, meaning that it can combat a broad spectrum of viruses, possibly including new outbreaks.

The team tested the DRACOs in human and animal cells cultured in the lab as well as mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. They found that DRACO left the mice fully cured of the infection, and that DRACO is not toxic to these animals. In addition, DRACO only targeted cells with dsRNA present while leaving healthy cells alone.

Rider and his team are now testing DRACO on other viruses in mice, and hope to eventually test it on larger animals and humans.

This study was published in PLoS One.

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So, that's how it starts...
By mitchebk on 8/30/2011 12:03:40 PM , Rating: 4
I'm pretty sure this is how the Zombie Apocalypse starts. The article reads that the treatment causes infected cells to commit suicide, right?

Well, what if normal cells were commanded to commit suicide? Then, people would begin to decay from the inside out giving them the desire/appetite for fresh human flesh to replace their own decaying flesh.

This is going to be a problem.

By geddarkstorm on 8/30/2011 12:07:06 PM , Rating: 2
Your normal cells commit suicide all the time. It is required for healthy cell turn over. In fact, part of aging is cells no longer doing this process correctly, and it's part of why your skin stops being healthy, thins, and loses strength and elasticity.

So, ironically enough, stopping apoptosis leads to decay, keeping it going leads to regeneration. (as long as you don't target the stem cells, if that happens and you lost those, you would go through rapid aging)

RE: So, that's how it starts...
By geddarkstorm on 8/30/2011 12:13:04 PM , Rating: 2
Err, not to be a downer on your joke of course XD. Just an excited biologist here who is currently geeking out!

Who knows, maybe you're right and I'm just another of our hubris filled researchers bringing about the downfall of mankind through science gone wrong!

RE: So, that's how it starts...
By mitchebk on 8/30/2011 3:43:06 PM , Rating: 1
Uh, joking, but good info on the aging process. All jokes aside, this is something to truly get geeked about. I'm not sure how the cold medicine industry will react (perhaps strong push-back via their lobbists), but it will be interesting to see if this potential breakthrough actually makes it store shelves.

By BugblatterIII on 9/5/2011 5:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
Zombies who don't get colds.

You have to look at the big picture.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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