“Hey, so what’d you do yesterday?”
“Um, went to work, dropped the kids off at practice, swung by Home Depot, went to the gym, and brought the kids home—pretty productive day. You?”
“Not much, just discovered a cure for the common cold.”
Yes, scientists from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England have made a major breakthrough on the path to discovering a cure for the common cold. It’s a little confusing, but we’ll try to break it down.
The researchers in Cambridge discovered that the body’s immune defenses can destroy the common cold virus—along with other viruses—after it has entered into a human cell.
Specific antibodies recognize and actually latch onto the invading virus, riding it into the cell. Once inside the cell, a protein—known as TRIM 21—recognizes the presence of the antibody and destroys the virus within two hours, before it starts producing its own viral proteins.
“This is the last opportunity a cell gets,” said lead researcher Leo James, “because after that it gets infected and there is nothing else the body can do but kill the cell.”
And why should you care?
Well, scientists originally thought that once a virus invaded a human cell, it was safe from the body’s defenses and any antibiotics. Now, a variety of new treatment methods are fair game.
The researchers believe that by boosting up the amount of TRIM 21 in our systems, we might be able to protect against the viruses that cause the common cold.
“This is a way of boosting all the antibodies you’d be naturally making against the virus,” James said. “The advantage is that you can use that one drug against potentially lots of viral infections.”
The protein would be taken in the form of a nasal spray or an inhaler. Researchers predict that the first clinical trials could begin within the next two to five years.
“The beauty of this system is that you give the virus no chance to make its own proteins to fight back,” said James. “It is a way for the cell to get rid of the virus and stay alive itself.”
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