Rider's idea was to combine a dsRNA protein that attaches to cells with another protein that causes cells to die. That means that when DRACO hooks up with the suspect dsRNA, it kickstarts a process whereby the infected cells begin to kill themselves.
On the other hand, if the RNA the drug has targeted is not in the cell (ie, a healthy, uninfected cell) then DRACO leaves that cell alone, Rider explained.
To see if this approach would work, the MIT team tested out the drug on both human and animal cells made in the lab. In addition, they tested their concept in mice infected with influenza. Mice treated with DRACO were cured of the flu, without any adverse effects, Rider said.
"So far, we have not found any side effects in cells or in mice," Rider said. "The mice appeared normal all the time they were alive, and their organs appeared normal when they were examined subsequently," he said.
In addition, he said that they also demonstrated that DRACO is nontoxic in 11 different cell types representing different species including humans, monkeys and mice, and in organ types such as the heart, lung, liver and kidney.
Rider believes that DRACO has the potential to "revolutionize" the treatment and prevention of virtually all viral diseases, including everything from the common cold to Ebola. "Because the antiviral activity of DRACO is so broad-spectrum, we hope that it will even be useful against outbreaks of previously unknown viruses, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak."
"We are currently testing additional viruses in mice and beginning to get promising results with those, too," he added.
Still, don't look for DRACO in your medicine cabinet anytime soon.
"We are hoping to license this technology to a pharmaceutical company that can carry it through larger animal trials and human clinical trials. Realistically, it will probably be at least a decade before you can buy DRACO at the drug store." Rid
All rights reserved