Researchers at Imperial College London may have found a way to stop the symptoms caused by the common cold—by attacking a specific protein that in turn would prevent the virus from replicating, according to a study published in the journal Nature Chemistry.
For the study, researchers targeted a human protein known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT). According to Imperial News, viruses, such as the common cold, use NMT found in human cells to "construct the protein 'shell,' or capsid, which protects the virus genome" and allows the virus to replicate.
The researchers conducted lab tests in which they used a molecule called IMP-1088, which originally was created in research looking to target malaria parasites, to inhibit NMT proteins used by the common cold virus. The researchers say IMP-1088 stopped several strains of the cold virus from "hijacking" humans' NMT cells, thus inhibiting the virus' ability to replicate and produce symptoms. Further, the researchers found that IMP-1088 was able to inhibit the common cold virus without having any effect on humans' healthy cells.
The research is still in very early stages. The researchers now plan to test the molecule in animal trials to see if they can replicate their findings.
Ed Tate, the lead researcher on the study and a professor of chemistry at Imperial College, said while the common cold is just an inconvenience for most people, it "can cause serious complications in people with conditions like asthma and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]." He added, "A drug like [IMP-1088] could be extremely beneficial if given early in infection, and we are working on making a version that could be inhaled, so that it gets to the lungs quickly" (Weintraub, FierceBiotech, 5/14; Dunning, Imperial News, 5/14).
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