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Draper Nanotechnology Could Fight Influenza, Other Viruses
Date:1/7/2014

Oligomerizer) is designed to detect cells that have been virally infected and then eradicate only the infected cells, rapidly ending the infection. DRACO has proven effective in vivo against influenza and three hemorrhagic fever viruses, and in vitro against 15 different viruses – including common cold viruses, the H1N1 influenza strain, adenoviruses, a mouse polio virus, dengue fever, and stomach viruses, among others. It has also been tested and proven safe in both mice and 11 different human and animal cell types representing organs like the heart, lungs, liver, and kidney, among others.

DRACO is designed to be attracted to a specific type of RNA exclusive to viral infections – long double-stranded RNA, or dsRNA. Detecting this dsRNA in a human or animal cell indicates that that host cell has been taken over by a virus and is now in the process of creating more viruses. DRACO enters cells and attaches itself to any dsRNA. Once two or more DRACOs attach to the dsRNA, they interact with one another and activate a natural self-destruct switch inside the infected cell, terminating the infected cell and the virus that it was helping to reproduce.

DRACO is designed to be both broad-spectrum and nontoxic to humans – overcoming existing issues with current anti-viral treatments. Because DRACO is so broad-spectrum and acts so rapidly, there is little opportunity for the virus to evolve defenses against this treatment, Rider said.

Rider is expanding his DRACO research and testing more strains of various viruses in cells and animals.

DRACO has been funded by grant AI057159 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, with other funding coming from DARPA, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering.

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