An international team of researchers have successfully manufactured a new protein that can combat deadly flu epidemics.
The research has been published in Nature Biotechnology, and demonstrates ways to use manufactured genes as antivirals, which disable key functions of the flu virus. Tim Whitehead, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University, said: “Our most potent design has proven effective on the vulnerable sites on many pandemic influenza viruses, including several H1N1 (Spanish flu, Swine flu) and H5N1 (Avian flu) subtypes.
“These new therapeutics are urgently needed, so we were especially pleased to see that it neutralizes H1N1 viruses with potency.”
The designer proteins were optimised through a process of “DNA deep sequencing”. Using this technique, the researchers were able to simultaneously sequence millions of variants of their manufactured proteins, identify and keep the beneficial mutations and optimize the proteins’ performance.
Using only the best mutations means that the scientists can program proteins to burrow into the viruses at key locations, and by doing so, render them harmless. The results could have also laid the groundwork for future treatments of all flu viruses as well as other diseases such as smallpox, Whitehead explained.