In a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.
The drug works by targeting double stranded RNA which is produced produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. As part of their natural defenses against viral infection, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that prevents the virus from replicating itself. However, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.
In order to solve this problem, the MIT team created Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers (DRACOs) which are comprised of a dsRNA binding protein bound to the apoptotic protein caspase. Thus when infiltrating cells, the apoptotic machinery can turned on selectively in the presence of dsRNA viral material.
For more on this story see new drug could cure nearly any viral infection.