A ton of viruses are plaguing our world at any given moment. Each with its own strength and effects, which can vary from mild to deadly. Luckily, our science has evolved enough to provide protection from most of these viruses, but there are still many that annihilate thousands and thousands of lives each year.
The Zika virus caused havoc around the globe this past year, as did the Ebola epidemic. The scientific and pharmaceutical communities basically raced against time to develop the proper treatments. This is due to their shape-shifting abilities, i.e. their ability to mutate at a very rapid pace.
Scientists from all over the world have been styling the common characteristics of viruses in order to develop an all-powerful vaccine that will be able to fight off any viral infection.
When horrifying events like these occur, especially in this day of age, one cannot help but wonder, is there a way to eliminate the threat of these viral illnesses?
A team of scientists from the Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and IBM Research claim that they have managed to identify a macromolecule that could have the potential to treat multiple types of viruses and prevent viral infections.
How? – the question imposes itself. Well, according to the scientists, this macromolecule targets glycoproteins, activates an electrostatic charge, lures the virus to approach it, latches onto it and basically “kills it” by neutralizing its acidity and preventing it from attaching to healthy cells where it would begin to replicate.
The macromolecule also contains mannose, a type of sugar, that attaches itself to healthy immune cells and causes them to be drawn to the virus and attack it more effectively.
Lab tests have shown that the engineered molecule was quite effective against several types of viruses, including Dengue, Herpes Simplex and Ebola.
“With the recent outbreak of viruses such as Zika and Ebola, achieving anti-viral breakthroughs becomes even more important,” said Doctor James Hedrick, lead researcher, advanced organic materials, IBM Research – Almaden, San Jose, California.
“We are excited about the possibilities that this novel approach represents, and are looking to collaborate with universities and other organizations to identify new applications.”
According to the official press release by IBM, the short-term potential could be for applications such as an anti-viral wipe or detergent, while the Potential longer-term applications may include the development of a new mode of vaccination that could help prevent a whole category of viral infections.
“Viral diseases continue to be one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality,” said Doctor Yi Yan Yang from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore.
“We have created an anti-viral macromolecule that can tackle wily viruses by blocking the virus from infecting the cells, regardless of mutations. It is not toxic to healthy cells and is safe for use. This promising research advance represents years of hard work and collaboration with a global community of researchers.”
Developed on a computer, this macromolecule could be the “omnipotent” vaccine we’ve all been waiting for.
However, the scientists say that there is much more work to be done and it might not become available for quite a while. Still, this is a great leap in the battle against viral infections and we are quite sure that the results will, eventually, be amazing.