U. BUFFALO (US)—Future pandemics of seasonal flu, H1N1, and other drug-resistant viruses may be thwarted by a potent, immune-boosting payload that is effectively delivered to cells by gold nanorods.
Paras Prasad, distinguished professor of chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, and medicine at the University at Buffalo, says the research has the potential “to usher in a new generation of antiviral medicines to aggressively treat a broad range of infectious diseases, from H1N1 to avian flu and perhaps Ebola, that are becoming increasingly resistant to the medicines used against them.”
The paper published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes the single strand RNA molecule, which prompts a strong immune response against the influenza virus by ramping up the host’s cellular production of interferons, proteins that inhibit viral replication.
But, like most RNA molecules, they are unstable when delivered into cells. Researchers discovered that gold nanorods act as an efficient vehicle to deliver the powerful immune activator molecule into cells.
“It all boils down to how we can deliver the immune activator,” says Suryaprakesh Sambhara of the Centers for Disease Control and a coauthor on the paper.
A key advantage is gold’s biocompatibility.
“The gold nanorods protect the RNA from degrading once inside cells, while allowing for more selected targeting of cells,” says coauthor Paul Knight, professor of anesthesiology, microbiology and infectious diseases at Buffalo.
“This work demonstrates that the modulation of host response is going to be critical to the next generation of anti-viral therapies,” Chakravarthy explains.
“The novelty of this approach is that most of these kinds of RNA viruses share a common host-response immune pathway; that is what we have targeted with our nanoparticle therapy. By enhancing the host immune response, we avoid the difficulty of ongoing viral resistance generated through mutations.”
Diseases that could be effectively targeted with this new approach include any viruses that are susceptible to the innate immune response that type 1 interferons trigger, Prasad notes.
Based on these in vitro results, the UB and CDC researchers are beginning animal studies.
“This collaboration has been extraordinary as two disparate research groups at UB and a third at the CDC have managed to maintain progress toward a common goal: treatment of influenza,” says co-author Adela Bonoiu, research assistant professor.
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