Computer-designed proteins are under construction to fight the influenza virus. Researchers are demonstrating that proteins found in nature, but that do not normally bind the flu, can be engineered to act as broad-spectrum antiviral agents against a variety of flu virus strains, including H1N1 pandemic influenza.
The research has been led by Dr. David Baker, professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington, and reported in Nature Biotechnology.
The research involves optimizing the function of computer-designed influenza inhibitors. These proteins are constructed via computer modeling to fit exquisitely into a specific nano-sized target on flu viruses. By binding the target region like a key into a lock, they keep the virus from changing shape, a tactic that the virus uses to infect living cells. The research efforts, akin to docking a space station but on a molecular level, are made possible by computers that can describe the landscapes of forces involved on the submicroscopic scale.
The reference is:
Timothy A Whitehead, Aaron Chevalier, Yifan Song, Cyrille Dreyfus, Sarel J Fleishman, Cecilia De Mattos, Chris A Myers, Hetunandan Kamisetty, Patrick Blair, Ian A Wilson, David Baker. Optimization of affinity, specificity and function of designed influenza inhibitors using deep sequencing. Nature Biotechnology, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2214