Researchers at IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore have created a macromolecule – one giant molecule made of smaller subunits – that might treat multiple types of viruses and prevent infection.
According to a paper published in Macromolecules, The Macromolecule warded off viruses such as influenza, dengue and Ebola successfully in a lab environment. Importantly, the macromolecule remained effective even after the viruses mutated.
Researchers plan to test the Zika virus next, and they believe its similarities to a form of dengue already tested will result in yet another successful trial.
Until now, scientists were unable to create a single weapon against all viruses simply because RNA and DNA mutate from virus to virus. However, The Macromolecule attacks viruses in a novel way.
Instead on RNA and DNA researchers decided to focus on glycoproteins, which viruses generally use to latch onto healthy cells. “It started with a gut feeling and a little bit of luck,” says James Hedrick, one of the lead researchers involved in the study, “but it progressed as we began to add the cognitive component to it much more rapidly.”
The Macromolecule first attracts viruses to itself using electrostatic charges. Then, once the virus is in proximity, the macromolecule attaches itself to the virus, rendering the virus incapable of attaching itself to healthy cells. Finally, the macromolecule neutralizes the virus’s acidity levels, which stops the virus from replicating.
“We had a couple years of horrible frustration,” said James Hedrick. “And then once we had that aha moment, from how the molecule was docking and how it was interacting…then it just roared.”
This may just be the start of a revolution in dealing with viruses. In a couple of years we may actually laugh at the fact that once we were vulnerable to getting a viral infection.
None the less, this is a discovery that needs a lot more tests, experiments and research. However, the science team is on the right way.