Spencer Williams, Associate Professor of Melbourne University, thinks his team’s research has made it possible to stop some viruses from ever turning into full-blown diseases.
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The research is focused on the enzymes in cells that viruses use to replicate themselves, and the pathways they follow to get there.
Williams explains that “one of these main pathways is in fact two pathways. And if you try to inhibit just one pathway, then the viruses instead use the other pathway.”
Now that Williams and his team have mapped the enzyme, he thinks drug makers will be able to produce inhibitors that will deny a virus access to that pathway.
This would effectively trap the virus before it could do any damage.
“In effect,” Williams says, “we should be able to prevent viruses from replicating, and therefore going on to cause disease.”
Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts within cells. A virus hijacks a cell by using its enzymes to infect, replicate and ultimately kill it.
Williams’ colleague, Dr. Sally Gras, a biomolecular engineer at Melbourne University, further elaborates:
“The type of viruses that we’re talking about are things like hepatitis C, HIV and these types of viruses infect up to 180 million people worldwide each year.”
Williams says it will take at least 10 more years of research but he believes his findings will help prevent some of the world’s deadliest diseases.