- Scientists believe they have now found a away to stop the common cold
- Researchers find a vital protein in cells which the cold virus needs to reproduce
- They intend to invent drug which works by temporarily suppressing the protein
- The method was also found to be effective against other viruses including polio
It’s a medical conundrum that, if solved, has the potential to benefit us all over the long winter months.
And a cure for the common cold could now be on the horizon as scientists believe they may have found a way to stop the illness.
Researchers have identified a vital protein in cells which the cold virus needs in order to reproduce.
A cure for the common cold could now be on the horizon as scientists believe they may have found a way to stop the illness. The technique was also found to be effective against other viruses, including that which causes polio [File photo]
By stopping humans producing this protein, they can stop the cells from replicating.
Jan Carette, a professor of microbiology at Stanford University in California said: ‘Our grandmas have always been asking us, ‘If you’re so smart, why haven’t you come up with a cure for the common cold?’ Now we have a new way to do that.’
By using a technique called gene-editing, the researchers were able to reprogramme cells to stop making the protein in human cells and mice.
Switching off this protein – methyltransferase SETD3 – meant the virus died off.
But there are no plans to ‘gene edit’ humans to prevent colds. Instead, the task will be to identify a drug that can achieve the same effect by temporarily suppressing the protein.
Researchers have identified a vital protein in cells which the cold virus needs in order to reproduce. By stopping humans producing this protein, they can stop the cells from replicating [File photo]
The technique was also found to be effective against other viruses, including that which causes polio.
There are around 160 different types of ‘rhinovirus’ which cause colds, and they mutate easily in order to quickly develop resistance to drugs.
The findings, reported in the journal Nature Microbiology, showed genetically modified mice were healthy, despite lacking the specific protein for their whole lives.
‘We have identified a fantastic target that all… rhinoviruses require and depend on. Take that away and the virus really has no chance,’ Professor Carette said.
He added: ‘This is a really good first step – the second step is to have a chemical that mimics this genetic deletion.
‘I think development can go relatively quickly.’
Exactly what role the protein plays in the viral replication is still uncertain, and will require further research.
Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the work, praised the study but said scientists would need to be certain the approach was safe.
Professor Ball told the BBC: ‘There is increasing interest in developing treatments that target these host proteins, because it can potentially overcome virus mutation – one of the major barriers to developing effective broadly active antivirals.
‘But of course, viruses are very adaptable and it is conceivable that even a host-targeting treatment might not keep them at bay for long.’