Some of the deadliest diseases afflicting mankind today are of viral origin, recently a headway made by a young scientist to understand viral invasion opens up new vistas for developing antiviral drugs
Naama Elefant, a researcher at the Hebrew University analyzed the function of microRNAs that led to the discovery.
Viruses are responsible for some of the most debilitating diseases known to mankind, such as avian influenza, AIDS, Ebola, SARS, common cold, chickenpox, influenza, diarrhea, etc. While some of these diseases are taken care of quite well by the immune system viz. common cold, diarrhea, against others such as the HIV, the human body is quite helpless. Although anti-viral drugs
such as the HIV drugs do help in slowing down the infection but the current pharmaceutical drugs
are nowhere near to completely treat the infection.
The new research focuses on the microRNA genes, which are found in many organisms. Discovered in 1993, microRNA play a big role in a range of biological processes. Their significance in the present study pertains to their ability to inhibit the production of proteins, which are the building blocks of cell and must be produced at the right time and place. MicroRNA genes inhibit proteins by attaching themselves to the proteins. The protein that a microRNA attacks is considered as its target.
The outcome of the research has been the development of an algorithm called RepTAR, which can predict the next target of a microRNA. The RepTAR works by searching thousands of genes in a human through, structural, sequence and physical characteristics and upon identification matches them to hundreds of microRNAs.Implications for Anti-viral therapy
This technique has helped in finding a group of microRNAs present in viruses. Further research highlighted that microRNAs did indeed inhibit the genes in the human immune system.
Consequently, the anti-viral pharmaceuticals
in the future could aim at inhibiting viral microRNA to treat an infection.
Viruses such as HIV are perhaps the biggest scare and the drugs
used against it aren't effective enough to save lives, if this discovery leads to a formulation that's effective enough, then it would perhaps be one of the finest discoveries in human history.