A Different Kind of Blog

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Researchers crack of common cold

Posted by tothewire on February 13, 2009


Scientists announced today they have cracked the genetic code of all known species of the common cold virus, a major step in possibly developing a cure, perhaps even a vaccine, for the common cold.

The findings, published this week in the journal Science, also highlighted why researchers have found it so difficult to develop effective drugs to combat the virus, which sickens millions each year and sends thousands of children with asthma to the hospital.

“We have never known what [the viruses] all look like and if you want to go after them, then you need to know that,” said a co-author of the study, Ann Palmenberg, a molecular virologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “So we decided to go after the whole thing.”

The genetic code, or DNA, of each organism, from viruses to people, is essentially the instruction manual of how to build that organism. Comparing genetic codes can also reveal whether two organisms are related, or evolved from a common ancestor. If you map the genetic code of enough related organisms, you can even make a family tree for them.
That’s what researchers did with the 99 known strains of the common cold virus, or human rhinovirus. And what they discovered, after they pieced the tree together, is that there are many branches and a lot of variety, which explains why attempts to build one drug to combat all varieties of the cold virus have not worked so far.

“I would love for there to be a one-drug-fits-all,” said study co-author Stephen Liggett, director of the cardiopulmonary genomics program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “But they are all too different.”

The good news, Liggett said, is that they can start looking at specific groups of similar viruses, figure out which are the really nasty ones and target those.

“Before we did this, we were shooting in the dark,” he said.

A common cold is considered by most to be a nuisance requiring a lot of chicken soup, nose blowing and over-the-counter medicine.

But a cold is especially dangerous for children with asthma, said Susanna McColley, associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and division head of pulmonary medicine at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Colds cause more hospitalizations among asthmatic kids than any other cause, McColley said.

A cure, she said, would be huge development. “It would change the face of pediatric asthma,” McColley said.

Researchers caution that it could still take years to develop a cure or a vaccine. The next step is to gather more strains of the virus, map those and then begin targeting the ones that cause the worst illness.

8 Responses to “Researchers crack of common cold”

  1. Julie said

    Hey gang just a note to say thank you for visiting my blog! Congratulations on over 160,000 readers in you few short months of blogging!


  2. Lawman2 said

    hey there julie!good to read ya here! you’re quite welcome and thank you! stop in anytime we love to hear (read)from our readers!


  3. Julie said

    by the way lawman dave said the cat did stalk the dog…lol


  4. Lawman2 said

    hehehe too funny julie! my cat does that all the time! i love it!


  5. Lawman2 said

    you’re always welcome to paste a link to your site everytime you comment here!we like sharing our readers with other blogs and blogs with our readers!


  6. did you read about the research saying NOT to blow your nose?? sorry I don’t have the link handy–I thnk I have it somewhere tho

    maybe i’ll do a mini-post on it and send people here to read your part–a 2 part piece of 2 blogs!


  7. John Harris said

    Sorry to burst the hype bubble but a cure for the common cold is already in clinical trials, and from the same people that did the research that produced Relenza and was “borrowed” to discover Tamiflu.

    “Rhinoviruses access nasal cells by attaching to a receptor on the cell surface. Canyon-like clefts on the surface of the virus attach to the receptor and allow the virus to infect the cell. Biota is developing antiviral compounds which are designed to bind to these evolutionarily conserved clefts of HRV’s capsid shell and interfere with virus attachment to the targeted cell’s receptor.”

    Biota completed Phase I (single & multi-dose) clinical trial of its HRV drug, BTA798 in 2007 and is currenty conducting Phase IIa trials.


  8. […] Researchers crack of common cold « A Different Kind of Blog […]


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