Chink discovered in armour of the common cold
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Friday 19 November 1999
Medical researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, have found out how one form of the cold virus attacks human tissues in the nose and throat.
The discovery, reported in the journal Science, could lead to the development of new drugs that can block the virus from binding to human cells, said Paul Freimuth, a biologist at Brookhaven and a member of the research team.
"Viruses have to bind to cells to infect them. If you could interrupt that binding, the virus would be dead in the water," Dr Freimuth said. "That, in essence, is what the body's immune system does when it produces antibodies. The antibodies bind to the virus so the virus can't bind to the cell."
However, for the immune system to launch an attack on an invading virus takes time, allowing it to multiply within the respiratory tract, which is why the symptoms of a cold can linger for days or even weeks.
Dr Freimuth, working with John Flanagan and other colleagues at Brookhaven, used high-intensity X-rays to show the structure of proteins used by one type of common cold virus, called adenovirus, which are used as "grappling hooks" for attacking human cells.
From there, they worked backwards to discover the dimensions of the human proteins which the virus uses to grip the respiratory tract cell it is infecting. By determining the structure of these proteins, the scientists should be able to design drugs that mimic the effect, causing the virus to lose its vital grappling hooks.
Dr Freimuth believes the research will help other scientists working on gene therapy and cancer treatments. "If you understand the way a virus attaches to a specific cell, you might be able to modify the virus to precisely target specific cells, such as those that make up a tumour," he said. It would also help in the design of more effective vaccines directed at binding sites.
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Watch a man race the Circle line - and win
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
- 5 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Islamic State: Pope is 'being targeted by Isis', Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude pictures exhibition cancelled after artist concedes photos were 'stolen property'
Scotland independence: A nation divided against itself: Brown says SNP are liars. Darling joins in. Salmond fights back
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Richard III: Two years after his body was found scientists discover how he died
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...