Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Before the early part of the twentieth century most methods of treating infection were based on medical folklore. It’s true that in the nineteenth century Pasteur and Koch had observed and isolated various bacteria and postulated their connection to disease and some vaccines had been developed, but, by and large, medical researchers had failed to take up the challenge of curing bacterial infections. It wasn’t until the 1930’s with Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin that antibiotics were developed which attacked bacterial infections directly. This mass alleviation of disease and suffering has been hailed as one of the greatest developments in medicine.
An equally momentous development was recently published in the July edition of the medical journal PLos One. MIT research scientist, Todd Rider, and his team have developed a broad spectrum anti-viral therapy which has worked in lab trials with mice against all viruses to which it has been applied. These include the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.
The drug works by combining the human cells’ sensitivity to double stranded RNA produced by the invading viruses with long-standing medical knowledge about the cell’s reaction to various cancers . Once a cell detects the dsRNA it produces antibodies which try– usually unsuccessfully– to prevent the virus from copying itself. Rider and his team took this natural defense and added another known defense to produce a molecular super cell defense. Knowing that humans cells release a protein in response to cancer cells which involves programmed cell suicide as the cancer attempts to metastasize, he joined the two defenses to produce a two stage silver bullet to fight viruses which he dubbed DRACOS (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers).
So far the therapy is completely successful. The discovery holds great promise for human viral diseases as Ebola, AIDS, even the flu and common colds. In theory, the drug works on all viruses as each produce the same reaction in human cells through the dsRNA. As for the risk of resistance, Rider finds it very unlikely to occur since viruses must use the long double stranded RNA to reproduce.
Imagine a world free from viral infections and maybe cancer — which some researchers have linked to viruses. That dream may have just started at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and Todd Rider’s name may be one placed along with Lister, Pasteur, Salk, and Koch, as great alleviators of human suffering. I hear Alfred Nobel calling.
Source: MIT News
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger