Common cold 'could be stopped in its tracks' thanks to science breakthrough

Scientists find way to 'jam' the genetic code

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The Independent Online

The common cold could be a thing of the past, as scientists have found a way to "jam" the genetic code.

The breakthrough means in the future, it could be possible to stop virus molecules replicating, by stopping them conveying the instructions needed to copy themselves.

Researchers at the Universities of Leeds and York used computers to investigate the ribonucleic acid (RNA) structure of a virus molecule, and found a code hidden within its sequence.

But before the discovery saves us from the misery of a cold, it must be trialled on animal viruses. This could mean the development of a drug which acts on the signals in the genetic code, and could even stop serious illnesses spreading.

Scientists said the research could mean "stopping the virus in its tracks".

Peter Stockley, Professor of Biological Chemistry in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said the new information was like an "enigma machine" which gave an insight into how viruses work.

He told The Telegraph: “We have shown that not only can we read these messages but we can jam them and stop the virus’ deployment.”

Also speaking to The Telegraph, Dr Roman Tuma, Reader in Biophysics at the University of Leeds, said: “We have understood for decades that the RNA carries the genetic messages that create viral proteins, but we didn’t know that, hidden within the stream of letters we use to denote the genetic information, is a second code governing virus assembly.

"It is like finding a secret message within an ordinary news report and then being able to crack the whole coding system behind it."

Experts said the findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, could help to protect people from a large group of infectious viruses.