Targeting Host Proteins for an Antiviral Therapy
The Flavivirus group of viruses is composed of pathogenic viruses, many of which cause diseases we cannot currently treat effectively. These include yellow fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Zika virus and dengue fever. Recent outbreaks of these diseases have led to numerous deaths around the world as well as substantial burdens on healthcare systems and agencies.
Dr. Trushar Patel, Canada Research Chair in RNA & Protein Biophysics, hopes to change this. His goal is to investigate how viral RNA interacts with host proteins. Learning more about how to target host proteins could support the development of new drug treatments for these dangerous viral infections.
Essentially, to replicate and spread, a virus requires a host. Although the human immune system has several layers of defense mechanisms, viruses can hijack the body’s host cell machinery (a host cell is a living cell in which a virus multiplies). A variety of host proteins recognize viral RNA molecules as a part of an innate immune system. But in some cases, viral RNA molecules succeed in using host proteins to help themselves replicate and propagate.
Patel and his team aim to understand this process so they can develop ways to inhibit viral replication. Ultimately, their work will support the development of targeted therapies for a range of viral infections.