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A cure for the common cold?

Nov 03, 2010

common cold sneezingNew research into the human immune system means that coughs and runny noses could soon be a thing of the past. Read on to find out more.

Scientists have discovered that antibodies – the human body’s natural weapon against infection – can destroy viruses even after they have entered a cell. This finding is a particular breakthrough as it was previously believed that antibodies could only attack viruses outside a cell. However, research at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge has demonstrated that antibodies can attach themselves to a virus when it first invades a cell. Once inside, the presence of antibodies causes the cell to release a protein called TRIM21, which quickly neutralises the virus before it can replicate.

Why is this important?

Viruses are the biggest killers on the planet, causing numerous life-threatening diseases like hepatitis as well as less serious ones such as the common cold. Unlike bacteria, which can be treated with antibiotics, the fact that viruses reproduce inside the body’s cells has made them extremely difficult to fight. But this research now means that scientists can concentrate their efforts on drugs and treatments which stimulate the production of TRIM21 by the human immune system. One idea so far has been to put TRIM21 inside nasal sprays to combat colds. We might be stuck with tissues and hot drinks when we get the sniffles for some time yet though, since scientists have emphasised that the study used a different virus to the ‘rhinoviruses’ which cause the common cold, and that research is still in its very early stages.

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