University of Thessaly
University of Thessaly

University of Thessaly-Medical Department

University of Thessaly-Medical School
ISSN: 1792-801X



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September 25, 2011 9th HelMedica Issue  Article 2e

TOP FIVE. The five most important medical news of the last trimester.

Assiduity : Tsintou Magdalini*
Department : Medical School, University of Thessaly
*Editor in Chief, reviewer, webmaster.

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          11th August 2011.

          Scientists may have found a cure for the common cold, flu, HIV – and almost any other virus you can think of.

          A drug that homes in on infected cells and makes them self-destruct has been created in the laboratory.

          Its hit list includes human rhinoviruses – the bugs behind half of colds in adults and almost all colds in children – flu, polio, a stomach bug and deadly dengue fever.

          But the drug, known by the acronym DRACO, is also expected to zap measles and German measles, cold sores, rabies and even HIV – and could be on pharmacy shelves in a decade.

          Researcher Mike Rider said: ‘It’s certainly possible that there’s some virus that we aren’t able to treat but we haven’t found it yet.

          'The discovery of antibiotics revolutionised the treatment of bacterial infections and we hope that this will revolutionise the treatment of viral infections.

          ‘There aren’t very many anti-viral drugs out there at the moment.’

          Dr Rider, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S., has exploited cells’ natural defences against infection.

          When viruses infect the body, they hijack cells’ internal machinery to make copy after copy of themselves. During this procedure they create long double-stranded strings of the genetic material RNA.

          Our cells usually defend themselves by making proteins that latch on to the RNA and stop the virus from breeding.

          But many viruses can outsmart this defence system.

          So Dr Rider has also harnessed a second natural process called apoptosis, in which diseased cells commit suicide.

The bottom row of images show viruses killing untreated human cells, but in the top pictures the drug used means there is no infection and cells are clear. 

         His drug homes in on cells with double-stranded RNA, stops the infection in its tracks and then kills the cells to finish off the infection.

         What is more, healthy cells are untouched, the journal PLoS ONE reports.

         In lab tests, DRACO killed 15 viruses, including germs behind the common cold and two types of flu. It also saved the lives of mice given a dose of flu that should have killed them.

         Amazingly, it works so quickly that if taken early enough it should stop any symptoms from appearing. Tests show it also wards off viruses, meaning it could stop people from becoming ill in the first place.

         British experts welcomed the breakthrough but warned that the drug works in such an unusual way that it would have to go through years of testing before it is considered safe enough to test on people for the first time.



         Many viruses can outsmart human cells natural defence system - but this technology doesn't let it.

         When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose - to create more copies of the virus.

         During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells.

         As part of their natural defence, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that stops the virus from replicating itself.

         But, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.

         This new technology works by combining a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that makes cells undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) — launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous.

         So, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

         Each DRACO also includes a 'delivery tag,' taken from naturally occurring proteins, that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter any human or animal cell.

         However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed.







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