By broadening their focus beyond a single virus, MIT scientists may have discovered one cure for a variety of infections.
Researchers are currently developing a drug that has, in lab trials with human and animal cells, proven successful in fighting off 15 different viruses, TIME reports, including the common cold, H1N1 influenza and a polio virus. The potential for the innovative therapy doesn't stop with those infections though. "In theory, it should work against all viruses," said Todd Rider who invented the technology.
The drug, called DRACO (double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizers), works by initiating cell death in infected cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. When a virus attacks a cell, it takes control of the cell's functions in order to replicate, producing strands of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in the process.
Human cells produce a protein that fights off infections by attaching to dsRNA and inhibiting replication, and Rider decided to capitalize on this natural reaction. According to TIME, the senior staff scientist at MIT combined the original protein with another protein that instigates apoptosis, also known as cell suicide.
The double protein attack would kill cells before they had a chance to replicate, effectively preventing the production of infected cells. The DRACO drug has already cured mice infected with the H1N1 flu virus in lab experiments, and the scientists look forward to further trials.