The ICL team chose to take a unique approach to the problem: If we can't directly take down every cold virus (and every potential cold virus), maybe we can make the human body inhospitable for those viruses.
Users would have to take the drug early on in a cold infection, and the researchers are working on a version which could be inhaled. "Even if the cold has taken hold, it still might help lessen the symptoms".
By contrast, the new molecule successfully blocked the several strains it was trialed against without damaging the human cells. Instead, it shuts down the protein in human cells that the virus needs.
Again, we'll have to wait to see the results of further tests before we know anything for sure, but for the millions or even billions of us who stand to catch a cold (or colds) this year, it's hard not to get a little excited about the awesome potential here.
IMP-1088 (yellow) blocks human NMT (blue), a protein essential for the cold virus to assemble the geometric capsid "shell" which encloses its RNA genome (green).
"The way the drug works means that we would need to be sure it was being used against the cold virus, and not similar conditions with different causes, to minimize the chance of toxic side effects", he says.
Although the molecule appears to prevent the virus from replicating, the tests were completed one hour before, one hour after, or at the same time the cells were infected.
Further study, initially in animals, will be needed to better establish a safety profile for the molecule and Tate is realistic about the work ahead. And they stayed effective for as long as three hours after infection. In lab tests, the molecule worked within minutes of being applied to human lung cells. "There is a still a long way before this becomes a medicine", he said.
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