Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sequences Capture the Code of the Common Cold

16.02.2009
In an effort to confront our most familiar malady, scientists have deciphered the instruction manual for the common cold.

Writing last week (Feb. 12) in the journal Science, a multi-institutional team of researchers reports the sequences for all of the 99 known strains of cold virus, nature’s most ubiquitous human pathogen. The feat exposes, in precise detail, all of the molecular features of the many variations of the virus responsible for the common cold, the inescapable ailment that makes us all sneeze, cough and sniffle with regularity.

Conducted by teams at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the J. Craig Venter Institute, the work to sequence and analyze the cold virus genomes lays a foundation for understanding the virus, its evolution and three-dimensional structure and, most importantly, for exposing vulnerabilities that could lead to the first effective cold remedies.

“We’ve had bits and pieces of these things for a long time,” says Ann Palmenberg, of UW-Madison’s Institute for Molecular Virology and the lead author of the new study. “Now, we have the full genome sequences and we can put them into evolutionary perspective.”

As its name implies, the common cold is an inescapable, highly contagious pathogen. Humans are constantly exposed to cold viruses, and each year adults may endure two to four infections, while schoolchildren can catch as many as 10 colds.

“We know a lot about the common cold virus,” Palmenberg explains, “but we didn’t know how their genomes encoded all that information. Now we do, and all kinds of new things are falling out.”

The genetic sequence of an organism is, in essence, a blueprint that carries all the necessary information for life. It reveals at the most basic level how an organism is constructed and can help scientists look back in time, assemble a family tree and see how a plant, animal or microbe came to be. With pathogens such as viruses, it can also be used to help predict the potential virulence of new emerging agents of disease.

A sequenced genome can also show an organism’s vulnerabilities. In the case of the cold virus, for example, the sequenced genomes are showing which receptors on cells the viruses bind to, information that can be used to design drugs that could potentially help prevent or mediate infection as viruses require access to host cells to do their dirty work and make new viruses.

“This gives us the molecular basis for drug activity,” says Palmenberg. “We can predict which drugs can take them out.”

Stephen B. Liggett, the new study’s senior author and a professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, notes that the relative paucity of information about the genetic composition of the many strains of cold virus has slowed the development of effective drugs to prevent infection, medicine that can be critically important for some populations.

“We generally think of colds as a nuisance, but they can be debilitating in the very young and in older individuals, and can trigger asthma attacks at any age,” says Liggett, a pulmonologist and molecular geneticist. The new sequences, he says, may help science understand the etiology of asthma as recent studies suggest rhinovirus infection in children can reprogram the immune system to develop asthma by adolescence.

The newly sequenced viruses also show, says Palmenberg, why it is unlikely we will ever have an effective, all-purpose cold vaccine: The existing reservoir of viruses worldwide is huge and, according to the new study, they have a tendency to swap genetic sequences when cells are infected by more than one virus, a phenomenon that can lead to new virus strains and clinical manifestations.

“Having sequenced the complete genomes of these things we now know you can be infected by more than one virus at a time and that they can recombine (their genes),” Palmenberg explains. “That’s why we’ll never have a vaccine for the common cold. Nature is very efficient at putting different kinds of paint on the viruses.”

The ability of different cold virus strains to swap genes and make entirely new strains was thought to be impossible, notes Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, a co-author of the new study and director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “There is the possibility that this could lead to the emergence of a new rhinovirus strain with fairly dramatic properties,” says Fraser-Liggett.

However, with cold virus sequences in hand, as well as some idea of how they exchange genetic information, it may be possible to predict the pathogenic potential of a virus and devise antiviral agents to thwart infection.

The sequenced cold viruses, which were collected from human noses worldwide, fall primarily into two broad species categories or serotypes of human rhinovirus, types A and B. The new work is timely as it presents a framework for understanding yet another newly described species of rhinovirus known as C, whose strains are less common, but far more virulent, capable of infecting cells deep in the lungs.

The new study was funded by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Terry Devitt | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>