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Scientists design new anti-flu virus proteins using computational methods
Date:5/13/2011

A research article May 12 in Science demonstrates the use of computational methods to design new antiviral proteins not found in nature, but capable of targeting specific surfaces of flu virus molecules.

One goal of such protein design would be to block molecular mechanisms involved in cell invasion and virus reproduction.

Computationally designed, surface targeting, antiviral proteins might also have diagnostic and therapeutic potential in identifying and fighting viral infections.

The lead authors of the study are Sarel J. Fleishman and Timothy Whitehead of the University of Washington (UW) Department of Biochemistry, and Damian C. Ekiert from the Department of Molecular Biology and the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute. The senior authors are Ian Wilson from Scripps and David Baker from the UW and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The researchers note that additional studies are required to see if such designed proteins can help in diagnosing, preventing or treating viral illness. What the study does suggest is the feasibility of using computer design to create new proteins with antiviral properties.

"Influenza presents a serious public health challenge," the researchers noted, "and new therapies are needed to combat viruses that are resistant to existing anti-viral medications or that escape the body's defense systems."

They focused their attention on the section of the flu virus known as the hemagglutinin stem region. They concentrated on trying to disable this part because of its function in invading the cells of the human respiratory tract.

Their approach was somewhat similar to engineering a small space shuttle with the right configuration and construction, as well as recognizance and interlocking mechanisms, to dock with a troublesome space station and upset its mission. Only these scientists attempted their engineering feat at an at
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Contact: Leila Gray
leilag@u.washington.edu
206-685-0381
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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