Imagine if we could live our lives without catching an annoying cold every once in a while, especially during the winter days. Well, we are one giant step closer to this. Scientists have been experimenting and trying to find a way to stop this kind of viruses from spreading among us. Eventually, they managed to find (an experimental) solution which would give “complete protection” from the common cold and other viruses.
Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses, however, there are more than 160 different types which can mutate very easily. Because of that they can become resistant to drugs, or learn to “trick” the immune system. Therefore, researchers decided to find a different approach, namely to make our bodies inhospitable for the cold viruses.
An individual virus cannot do much without a host. It basically infects other cells and steals some of the parts inside. One recent study managed to find one component which the viruses were dependent upon. There is a protein inside our cells called methyltransferase SETD3. Scientists used genetic modification experiments on human cells and mice, to “turn off” the instructions inside the DNA for the specific protein. After this gene-editing was done, the human cells and the mice were exposed to the common cold and even more dangerous viruses, but they were all completely resistant to them. This means that the disability of the body to produce the protein methyltransferase SETD3 caused a very strong reduction in viral replication.
The mice used in the experiments remained healthy, despite lacking the protein for their whole lives. However, the authors of the study say that they are not ready for trials in people. The goal is not to produce genetically modified humans, but to find a drug which can temporarily suppress the protein, and provide protection. Further research needs to be done in order to find a chemical that will mimic the genetic deletion.
While the common cold is nothing more than an inconvenience for the average person, it can be a real threat to asthmatics or other chronically ill people. Some of the enteroviruses can even cause paralysis if they spread to the brain, which is why we definitely need to find a cure.