Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New treatments for viral and other diseases by blocking genes

26.05.2008
The elusive goal of developing effective treatments for viral diseases such as AIDS and influenza has been brought closer by dramatic progress in the ability to interfere with viral genetic machinery. The stage was set for a coordinated European effort to accelerate research and stimulate development of new treatments against viral diseases at a recent research conference organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF).

It has been possible for many years to protect against some viral diseases such as polio in advance by vaccination, but there is still no effective treatment for patients once infection has occurred. Furthermore vaccination has not been possible so far against some diseases such as AIDS, and is only partially successful against some others, such as influenza.

However there is now the possibility of developing treatments potentially against all viral diseases through drugs based on the recently discovered phenomenon of RNA interference (RNAi), as was discussed at the ESF conference. The interference is performed by small RNA molecules known as siRNAs (small interfering RNAs).

RNA is produced when genes are expressed, normally as an intermediate step in the production of the end product, proteins. In some cases though expression stops with short RNA molecules, which in turn regulate the activity of other genes. Such molecules are called microRNAs, of which siRNAs can be considered a sub-category. It has already been shown that siRNAs occur naturally in plants as a defence mechanism against viral infection, but it is not known whether they occur in animals as Jens Kurreck pointed out, who organized the conference together with Ben Berkhout,. "An important question is whether RNAi is a natural cellular defense mechanism in mammals including humans," said Kurreck.

If it turns out that siRNAs do occur naturally in humans, researchers will attempt to stimulate or reinforce them to treat viral diseases more effectively than they normally do. If they do not occur naturally, then the line would be to create artificial siRNA molecules exploiting knowledge of how plants produce and apply them in their innate immune defences.

Although the basic mechanisms of RNA interference are now quite well understood, significant challenges remain in applying the technique in treatment of disease. A major issue lies in the ability of viruses to "escape" siRNA molecules by mutating so that they are no longer susceptible, according to Kurreck. These mutations prevent siRNA molecules from binding to relevant sites on the virus, so that it can reproduce without interference. One solution to prevent viruses escaping from RNAi in this way would be to combine several different treatments. "In analogy with the combination of several drugs in conventional virus therapy, various siRNAs against the virus can be combined to prevent viral escape," said Kurreck. The idea is that the virus might be able to evade one siRNA, but could not duck the combined effect of several.

Another challenge lies in ensuring that siRNAs are specific and inhibit the genetic machinery just of the target virus, without impairing vital cellular processes, with knock on effects for the immune system as a whole perhaps.

RNAi treatments are not just for the future - some are close to reality, particularly against respiratory diseases, since it is easier to deliver the drugs into the lung. "Two clinical trials to use RNAi against viruses are ongoing," said Kurreck. "There is a phase II trial with siRNAs against the Respiratory Syncitial Virus, and a phase I trial to treat patients infected with HIV." Phase I trials are usually conducted on small groups of people to assess safety, while in Phase II larger numbers of volunteers are recruited, typically around 300, to assess the effectiveness of the drug.

While the most immediate promise of RNAi is for treating viral diseases, it has equally exciting potential against other diseases such as macular degeneration, and some cancers. Here too real progress has been made. "Three clinical trials are ongoing to treat patients with age-related macular degeneration. Furthermore, one talk at the conferences was about the use of RNAi against cancer. A clinical trial for that was announced to begin at the end of 2008," said Kurreck.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org/index.php?id=2504

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht 3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>