Cure for the common cold? Incredible molecule shows real promise

Grant Boone
May 15, 2018

Inhibiting NMT with IMP-1088 prevented multiple strains of the cold virus from "hijacking" human cells in lab tests, the researchers reported. When a cold virus replicates, it takes a protein called N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) from host cells to build its capsid, a protein shell that surrounds the virus's genome.

They applied the drug to human lung cells in the lab and it worked within minutes!

The drug is also hypothetically effective in dealing with polio and foot and mouth disease, which have similar viruses to the common cold.

Researcher Prof Ed Tate said: "The idea is that we could give it to someone when they first become infected and it would stop the virus being able to replicate and spread".

Any virus needs this same human protein to make new copies of itself and, as this new molecule can target NMT, it can work against the common cold.

Dr Peter Barlow of the British Society for Immunology said: "While this study was conducted entirely in vitro - using cells to model Rhinovirus infection in the laboratory - it shows great promise in terms of eventually developing a drug treatment to combat the effects of this virus in patients". The researchers showed that the new molecule completely blocked several strains of the virus without affecting human cells.

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The problem with the common cold virus is that there are hundreds of different strains which are constantly evolving so even if the body develops immunity to one strain, there are hundreds more out there ready to attack. However, further studies are needed to ensure that the drug is not toxic in the body.

Roberto Solari, visiting Fellow at the National Heart & Lung Institute, says he's reasonably optimistic.

By inventing a novel way to combine the two, they created a molecule, codenamed IMP-1088, which is more than a hundred times more potent than previous molecules targeting the protein in humans.

New research reveals the scientists were originally looking for compounds that targeted the protein in malaria parasites. They found two compounds that seemed to work well together, so they combined them to make IMP-1088.

However, the safety of the drug will not be established for sure until it has undergone human trials.

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