by Jesse Hicks Mens Health
Watch out, virus, MIT researchers are coming to get you.
Forget the flu shot—how about a flu cure? And along with it, a cure for HPV, chickenpox, and West Nile virus? According to a new study published in PloS One, researchers have found a way to disrupt nearly all viruses—including those we haven’t heard of yet.
The experimental antiviral is called DRACO (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer). In tests, it saved mice infected with a lethal dose of H1N1 influenza.
DRACO targets double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which appears only in virus-infected cells as part of the virus’s reproduction process. Via a protein, it causes cells with dsRNA to die while preserving uninfected cells. Cleaning up the remains of the dead cells poses no challenge for your body, meaning that a treatment causes few side effects.
Since virtually all viruses depend on dsRNA to reproduce, DRACO could be a breakthrough with wide-ranging applications, says Todd Rider, Ph.D., who invented the therapy with researchers at MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group. “So far we have tested DRACO against 15 different viruses, everything from the common cold to hemorrhagic fever viruses, and it has been effective against all of them,” Rider says.
And unlike vaccines, which must be administered before an infection, giving antibodies time to develop, DRACO works after exposure. “DRACO has the potential to revolutionize the treatment and prevention of viral illnesses, just as antibiotics revolutionized the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections in the mid-twentieth century,” says Rider.
So far, mice are the only ones receiving DRACO treatment. But with further testing researchers can move up the ladder to guinea pigs, then monkeys, and, within a few years if all goes well, humans