MIT’s DRACO is a Novel Approach to Fighting Viral Pathogens
An innovative approach to fight viral pathogens has been discovered by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The new drug DRACO, an acronym for double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizers, has the potential to fight many known viruses, including the common cold, flu, stomach viruses, polio, and many more. While the drug is still several years away from clinical trials, DRACO has seen early success in the laboratory. DRACO has demonstrated that it is nontoxic in 11 mammalian cell types, effective against 15 different viruses, and eradicates H1N1 in infected mice.
This groundbreaking treatment employs a novel approach to viral infection. While current therapies typically target a specific virus and often have undesirable side effects, DRACO covers a broad spectrum of viruses by targeting genetic material found only in infected cells. When a cell is infected, a virus reprograms the cell to make copies of the virus. While manufacturing new viruses, the cell creates double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) which is not normally found in healthy human and animal cells. DRACO is designed to enter cells that contain dsRNA and then deliver a message for the cell to self-destruct, a process called apoptosis. In doing so, cells that are infected are quickly destroyed and additional copies of the viruses cannot be made. Because DRACO is specifically designed to only enter cells with dsRNA, healthy cells are left alone.
Even though DRACO is still in the laboratory, the ingenuity of this novel approach to drug discovery is refreshing. As traditional drug discovery continues with its struggles, these types of groundbreaking ideas are critical to ensure new therapies are found in the future.