Researchers fight flu with antiviral manufactured genes

Influenza

An international team of researchers has demonstrated methods for using manufactured genes as antivirals that disable key processes within the influenza virus in a new study.

Tim Whitehead, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University, and his colleagues used computer-aided design to create proteins to target the virus’s vulnerable sites. The team then optimized the proteins by finding the mutations that gave the proteins the best advantage when attacking the viruses, Medical News Today reports.

“Our most potent design has proven effective on the vulnerable sites on many pandemic influenza viruses, including several H1N1 (Spanish flu, swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu) subtypes,” Whitehead, the paper’s co-lead author, said, according to Medical News Today. “These new therapeutics are urgently needed, so we were especially pleased to see that it neutralizes H1N1 viruses with potency.”

The researchers used DNA deep sequencing to sequence millions of protein variants, keeping only the most beneficial mutations to optimize the performance of the proteins.

“By taking only the best mutations, we can reprogram our proteins to burrow into viruses at key locations and render them harmless,” Whitehead said, according to Medical News Today. “Our work demonstrates a new approach to construct therapeutic proteins, which we hope will spur development of new protein drugs by the biopharmaceutical industry.”

Whitehead said the research could also be used in the treatment of other diseases such as smallpox.

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