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Medicine Science

Breakthrough Portends Cure For the Common Cold 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-portends-breathless-headlines dept.
breadboy21 writes with this excerpt from the Independent: "Scientists have been able to show for the first time that the body's immune defenses can destroy the common cold virus after it has actually invaded the inner sanctum of a human cell, a feat that was believed until now to be impossible. The discovery opens the door to the development of a new class of antiviral drugs that work by enhancing this natural virus-killing machinery of the cell. Scientists believe the first clinical trials of new drugs based on the findings could begin within two to five years."
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Breakthrough Portends Cure For the Common Cold

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:12AM (#34099466) Journal

    But studies at the Medical Research Council's laboratory have found that the antibodies produced by the immune system, which recognise and attack invading viruses, actually ride piggyback into the inside of a cell with the invading virus.

    Yes but these 'Slim Pickens' antibodies are often regarded as clinically insane by the others that watch in confusion as the suicidal antibody hoots and hollers, waiving its antibody cowboy hat around as the virus blasts them both into the cell.

    • This is just marketing to upgrade my free common cold to uncommon colds. Then fees for gold level colds and platinum level colds.

      • Perhaps there is some research going on there but a description of it was not found in the article. The article makes no sense. It calls antibodies "war machines". Antibodies just bind proteins. They don't even destroy proteins though often they bind them in ways that inhibits their action until they can be degraded by other proteins. If an anti-body is binding to the coat protein of a virus then it is possible that it can inhibit the viral penetration of the cell. But once the virus dumps it's payloa

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by radtea (464814)

          The article makes no sense. It calls antibodies "war machines". Antibodies just bind proteins

          But you see, "war" is such a successful human activity, solving all kinds of problems that couldn't be solved any other way far more easily and at less human cost than any other method, that it is now used as a metaphor for any enterprise that people expect to be easily successful.

          Thus, the "War on Poverty"--which eliminated poverty--and the "War on Drugs"--which eliminated recreational drug use--and the "War on Terror"--which eliminated terrorism.

          As you can see, "war" is such a great metaphor for wildly su

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mykdavies (1369)
          You're correct. The Guardian has a better article [guardian.co.uk], that touches on your point -- this approach will only work for those viruses that keep their protein coat once inside the cell; if they shed it on entry, they will not be affected in the way described.
        • The protein is TRIM21, hitherto known only to readers of Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIM21 [wikipedia.org]

          If it can bring an antibody into the cell that's very interesting, even if they've only demonstrated it in cell culture. Let me know when they try it on a mouse.

          Contrary to the article, I always thought that there are other mechanisms that can kill viruses inside the cell, particularly siRNAs could also kill viruses http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_interfering_RNA [wikipedia.org]

  • by MrHanky (141717) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:18AM (#34099484) Homepage Journal

    My cold will be over by then.

  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:19AM (#34099496) Homepage

    I look forward to seeing how this annoyance will evolve into a serious threat

    • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:30AM (#34099990)

      This isn't like antibiotics though. This is a naturally occurring chemical that your body produces. The human body has been fighting colds for ages and they haven't evolved into a serious threat, nor will it. It's key to survival is the fact that it doesn't kill you. That way it can spread and infect more people, thus insuring its survival. However, that said, what effects throwing in an excess of antibodies that your body would normally produce does to the immune response over time is another question entirely. Could the body come to assume there was a magical load of antibodies going to come on its own (the drug) and decide not to waste the resources to make any of its own anymore? That's more my worry. (sort of like how a certain type of diabetes is induced rather than genetic)

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        The think is that it is produced in response to the presence of a virus.

        What happens to a cell that sees TRIM21 when not infected? I suspect bad things, there's a reason that mechanism isn't always active.

        • From what I can tell the mechanism pretty much IS always active. The trim21 is already in the cell but only sees the antibodies once the virus has invaded the cell though, and the cylinders only digest when the trim21 is bound to the antigens. (as far as I can tell from the article at least, I am a biochemist but I haven't researched this effect further on my own.)

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:21AM (#34099504) Homepage

    We reduce the number of ways we can defend against Martian war machines.

  • 2 - 5 years (Score:3, Funny)

    by mtinsley (1283400) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:23AM (#34099518) Homepage
  • Flash game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpinningCone (1278698) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:24AM (#34099532)

    while reading the article i couldn't help thinking that the immune system would make a cool Flash game.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      My lady is always after me to make a game like that (as if I were a programmer) because of the benefits of visualization vis-a-vis healing. I remember there was a shooter game like that for Apple 2... Plasmania? Yes, that's it. I bet you can get it from the Newton Apple archive and play it in emulation if you care :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SLot (82781)
  • NO! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by p51d007 (656414)
    Unless you have a depressed immune system, I for one would NOT want this. I think part of the problem we have today with "people getting sick" is that at the first sniffle, we are off to the doctor, "demanding" an antibiotic or something to make us feel better. Doctors are partly to blame because they use to just give in and give it to us, even though most of the time, it wasn't a bacteria problem, but a virus problem. Now, a lot of antibiotics don't work, because the little bugs have gotten use to the stu
    • Re:NO! (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:37AM (#34099608) Journal
      Nice rant. No, actually, completely irrelevant rant. This research shows how your body breaks down viruses and provides a potential means of stimulating this response. If anything, it makes it harder for viruses to adapt, because they're faced with exactly the same defence mechanism as without this boost, it's just more powerful so they are destroyed faster and have less time to adapt.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        It's possible that there is a good reason why that mechanism is not already more powerful.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by atdt1991 (1069776)

          It's possible that there is a good reason why that mechanism is not already more powerful.

          This is completely blind speculation. It's also possible, using similar blind speculation, that this pathway is the virus panacea we've been waiting for, and that it will ultimately prove to be the death of all human-susceptible viruses ever. Take THAT, HIV!

        • Re:NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jayemji (1054886) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @09:23AM (#34100464)
          That reason could be that the metabolic expense is too high for someone who lives off 1000 Calories a day. Not really a problem for most 1st world folks nowadays...
      • Re:NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:16AM (#34099886)

        Nice rant. No, actually, completely irrelevant rant. This research shows how your body breaks down viruses and provides a potential means of stimulating this response. If anything, it makes it harder for viruses to adapt, because they're faced with exactly the same defence mechanism as without this boost, it's just more powerful so they are destroyed faster and have less time to adapt.

        You tried to label a comment as "completely irrelevant" but still you demonstrate you fail to understand the basic aspects pertaining to evolution. The thing is, "making it harder to adapt" does not, nor it can ever mean "making it impossible to adapt". They will adapt. It will only take a single virus to survive a stimulated response for it to replicate and propagate. With all the other unadapted virus out of the picture, the replicas of the adapted virus will in essence have an entire ecosystem at their disposal, where they will freely propagate, infect and replicate. Your poor understanding of this subject is what lead incompetent health officials and irresponsible patients to contribute to the development of the so called superbugs [wikipedia.org], which are no laughing matter.

        But hey, keep spewing uneducated drivel and accuse those who demonstrate a better understanding of the subject as making "completely irrelevant rants". Meanwhile nature does work in spite of your lack of understanding.

        • Re:NO! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @09:30AM (#34100530)

          Nice rant. No, actually, completely irrelevant rant. This research shows how your body breaks down viruses and provides a potential means of stimulating this response. If anything, it makes it harder for viruses to adapt, because they're faced with exactly the same defence mechanism as without this boost, it's just more powerful so they are destroyed faster and have less time to adapt.

          You tried to label a comment as "completely irrelevant" but still you demonstrate you fail to understand the basic aspects pertaining to evolution. The thing is, "making it harder to adapt" does not, nor it can ever mean "making it impossible to adapt". They will adapt. It will only take a single virus to survive a stimulated response for it to replicate and propagate. With all the other unadapted virus out of the picture, the replicas of the adapted virus will in essence have an entire ecosystem at their disposal, where they will freely propagate, infect and replicate. Your poor understanding of this subject is what lead incompetent health officials and irresponsible patients to contribute to the development of the so called superbugs [wikipedia.org], which are no laughing matter.

          But hey, keep spewing uneducated drivel and accuse those who demonstrate a better understanding of the subject as making "completely irrelevant rants". Meanwhile nature does work in spite of your lack of understanding.

          Actually, in this case, the person you're replying to is right. If the stimulated response is causing your body to use the exact same method of attack against the viruses, but just cause it to act faster, than it is lowering the chance for the virus to adapt. After all, the ones who are susceptible to the immune system response are already being killed by this response, and are getting a greater number of generations in which to develop a mutation that might make them more resistant to it. If you can make the immune system kill them faster using the same method, then yes, they could still adapt, but now you're giving them less time to do it. Assuming it's even possible for them to develop a mutation that can stop it, which is not necessarily a given.

          • Actually, in this case, the person you're replying to is right. If the stimulated response is causing your body to use the exact same method of attack against the viruses, but just cause it to act faster, than it is lowering the chance for the virus to adapt. After all, the ones who are susceptible to the immune system response are already being killed by this response, and are getting a greater number of generations in which to develop a mutation that might make them more resistant to it. If you can make the immune system kill them faster using the same method, then yes, they could still adapt, but now you're giving them less time to do it. Assuming it's even possible for them to develop a mutation that can stop it, which is not necessarily a given.

            That's the point which people who at least grasp the subject, such as the OP, repeatedly make while others are systematically missing. Putting out a stronger immune system response does not nor it can ever mean that pathogens will be unable to adapt. They can adapt and, as it has been shown time and again, they will adapt. Trying to make believe that the pathogen's ability to adapt is somehow thrown out of the window if the immune system is helped to throw a stronger response is both showing ignorance an

          • I think people are arguing from two different set of assumptions. Either:

            i) The virus can mutate to avoid this mechanism but it has not done so. For example the mechanism may be ineffecient or at the level expressed by the host is not detrimental as to prevent successful replicative lifecycle. Perhaps mutation will lower the viruses 'fitness' in other domains.

            ii) The virus cannot mutate to avoid this mechanism (unlikely, but possible if it's in a key regulatory pathway or adaptor molecule for cell entry). I

        • And that's why we've had epidemics of super-powered vaccine resistant smallpox, polio, and whooping cough sweep through and destroy huge populations.........or not.

          • You fail to understand that, for example, when an outbreak of smallpox occurs the patients are placed in quarantine, which has nothing to do with the effectiveness of a treatment and/or vaccination campaign. Moreover, although they receive medical treatment, the fatality rate of those outbreaks is considerably high. That method also works and is employed to contain diseases which there are no known cures, including other media darlings such as ebola.

            So, not only your example does nothing to contradict wha

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by donscarletti (569232)

          The thing is, "making it harder to adapt" does not, nor it can ever mean "making it impossible to adapt".

          A pathogen is like a person, put a mild poison in their water supply and they will build an immunity, inject a 30ml vial of ricin into their aorta and they will die in seconds. Flooding a person's body with almost enough vancomycin to kill them is going to kill pretty much anything else inside of them. But give the same person a single dose of oxacillin and it will just kill off the weakest and least res

    • Everyone else is clamoring for preventative medicine saying health care costs will go down, but you say let them get sick. Interesting
    • by Combatso (1793216)
      to summarize... store bought bread and shitty hands = bad.. got it
    • And, as much of a pain in the butt as it is, we don't let ourselves "be sick". Sometimes letting the body fight off a cold, or small virus is better than trying to beat it. It helps our immune system "buck up" and keep us healthy the next time a little invader hits us.

      Then:

      I see it daily...people walk in, do their business, and walk out. H*ll, didn't your momma tell you to wash up after you do your business?

      Given your theory that more exposure to minor pathogens let's your immune system exercise and get buff, shouldn't you *not* wash your hands? I mean, you're not likely to get HIV from touching your own willy. The worst you're likely to find down there is some minor stomach bug. Seems to me, given the rest of your rant, that we should just calk this one up to "more exposure to minor pathogens" and call it a day.

    • by TheLink (130905)

      The other thing that just gets me ticked is people NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS when they use the restroom. I see it daily...people walk in, do their business, and walk out. H*ll, didn't your momma tell you to wash up after you do your business?

      From a selfish POV, it's sometimes better for you if you don't wash your hands assuming you can manage to not touch anything else in the washroom on your way in and out- e.g. door knobs/handles, taps, etc. Because, assuming you're somewhat healthy, your body can cope with whatever it has already. So if you don't touch anything else and keep your hands reasonably dry (e.g. momma taught you to not pee on your hands ), nothing changes much and so stuff is likely to stay AOK for you (someone else might not be a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602)

      Sometimes letting the body fight off a cold, or small virus is better than trying to beat it. It helps our immune system "buck up" and keep us healthy the next time a little invader hits us. The other thing that just gets me ticked is people NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS when they use the restroom.

      To paraphrase:

      Its a good for the immune system to get some exposure to disease.
      Wash your hands to make sure you don't get exposed to disease.

      Both points might be valid, but it strikes me that they don't really belong ri

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pclminion (145572)

      The other thing that just gets me ticked is people NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS when they use the restroom.

      When's the last time you got cholera? Tapeworm? The sorts of infections which are transmitted via contact with fecal matter are a different set of things than what we're talking about here. The cold virus inhabits the upper respiratory tract, not your ass.

      In fact, when's the last time you caught ANYTHING and your immediate thought was "Dammit, I caught this damn thing from someone's ass!"

      I'm all for handw

  • by Toe, The (545098) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:40AM (#34099630)

    No, no, no, no, no. This is just silly.

    I have seen several Star Trek episodes where they emphatically pointed out that they had never found a cure for the common cold. So how could there be one in the mere 21st century? Idiots.

    Transporters that can reverse the aging process? Sure. (Though somehow they repeatedly forget this and continue to die of old age.) A cure for most every disease except the common cold? Sure! But a cure for the common cold itself? Impossible!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DarthBender (1071972)

      ah, but there was a Next Gen episode where Data was practicing sneezing (to more emulate humans) and Wes asks him if he has a cold. Data responds "a cold what?", and Wes says something to the effect that it's a disease people used to get.

      Why oh why do I remember this?

      • Why oh why do I remember this?

        There must be a high concentration of gamma rays in your parents' basement that gives you superhuman powers. Either that or you're a cyborg sent back in time from the future. Obviously one of those options is just ridiculous...
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/opinion/05ackerman.html [nytimes.com]

    i just read this last month

    the common cold is an immune system overreaction. the virus does not cause the cold, our own bodies overreact to the cold, and that causes ALL symptoms. which explains why cold medicines work: they modulate the immune response, they don't actually fight the virus

    But, as medical science has realized over the past few decades, the most prevalent cold viruses in fact do little direct harm to our cells. In one experiment in 1984, researchers at the University of Copenhagen performed biopsies on nasal tissue taken from people suffering severe colds, then did the same after the subjects had recovered. To the scientists’ surprise, none of the samples showed any sign of damage to the nasal tissue. Further vindicating the viruses themselves was another study around the same time showing that rhinoviruses infect only a small number of cells lining the nasal passages.

    so the virus comes in, borrows some cellular machinery for a few days, makes a few copies, and then leaves. our body's response is to call out the entirety of the navy, the marines, the army, the air force, the cavalry, mortar batteries, drone predators, and tactical nuclear strikes. for a crime which amounts to a homeless guy squatting in an unused home for a day or two

    • Yup! Actually, there already is a great cure for the common cold, it's called Prednisolone. Unfortunately there's far too many side-effects to long-term steroid use to advocate it for relatively minor symptoms. Once when I was working in A&E (ER) I was sneezing all day with a cold; a colleague gave me a low dose Prednisolone tablet and I felt on top of the world. Many children who are labelled with 'asthma' actually only wheeze when they have a cold, and giving a short course of steroids usually tot
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Exsam (768226)
        All the steroids are doing is suppressing your immune system. This is not a cure you are simply treating the symptoms and depending on how severe the infection is, may be the worst possible thing you can do.
        • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:45AM (#34100138)

          All the steroids are doing is suppressing your immune system. This is not a cure you are simply treating the symptoms and depending on how severe the infection is, may be the worst possible thing you can do.

          You might want to notice or respond to your GP, which argued fairly clearly that the only things worth treating in a cold are the symptoms.

        • Ummm, go read the GP.

          You're not actually infected. A cold doesn't do any actual damage to the body. The body just massively over-reacts, which are your symptoms. Thus, the steroids treat the reaction to a non-infection. Thus it is a cure - the reaction is the only thing to treat, so suppress the reaction.

          • But steroids don't just suppress the immune response to the cold. They just generally suppress the immune system. Thus you may cure your cold symptoms at the price of allowing an infection that otherwise would been stopped cold to progress.

            • And how is that different from ANY anti bacterial/anti viral medication used now? Especially broad spectrum treatments.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BarryJacobsen (526926)

      for a crime which amounts to a homeless guy squatting in an unused home for a day or two

      You don't understand - his cell membrane is a different COLOR. They're TERRORISTS.

      • much of antiterrorism activity is an overreaction yes

        but antiterrorism is not racism

        you can't defeat the abuses you see in your world by completely misidentifying what they actually are

    • ...so you're saying they're Republican?
  • Ironic (Score:4, Funny)

    by FlyByPC (841016) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @07:59AM (#34099760) Homepage
    ...So now we'll be able to cure the common cold, but can't put a man on the Moon (anymore)?
  • This is proven to help prevent colds. I'll skip the experimental drugs with unknown side-effects.
    • I think you'll find the majority of cold viruses are caught by airborne droplets from sneezing and coughing, so I don't think washing your hands will help that much. It will work well with infections that are caught by the faeco-oral route, e.g. many vomiting and diarrhoea bugs.
    • by Combatso (1793216)
      keeping the air humid works better for preventing an airborne cold.. the virus sticks to your snot, you the blow it away or swallow it and let the stomach acid take care of business.. its why we are so susceptible in winter, when the air is dry, our primary defence (mucus) us akk dried up and sticky, which gives the virus a place to take hold..
  • by littlewink (996298) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:03AM (#34099792)
    They're not promising a cure for the common cold and they are only speaking of the possibility of some future antiviral drugs.

    Medical researchers should be required to keep their yap shut until they produce something that works in humans. For decades I've read thousands (probably tens of thousands) of science articles that promised medical cures. Yet in that time only a handful were produced. Medical science today is little more than a money machine for researchers. I doubt that the investment is worthwhile.

    Where's a cure for cancer, for diabetes, for heart disease? Nowhere to be found in the USA.

    • by Combatso (1793216)
      yah,.. keep it all a secret, don't puch for funding, save our money for more import thangs.. who needs medical and health research when we spend it on anti-terrorism and climate research
    • They're not promising a cure for the common cold and they are only speaking of the possibility of some future antiviral drugs.

      Medical researchers should be required to keep their yap shut until they produce something that works in humans. For decades I've read thousands (probably tens of thousands) of science articles that promised medical cures. Yet in that time only a handful were produced. Medical science today is little more than a money machine for researchers. I doubt that the investment is worthwhile.

      Where's a cure for cancer, for diabetes, for heart disease? Nowhere to be found in the USA.

      Since anyone doing research gets grants and career advancements through publishing papers, and since science is advanced purely by people reading other people's results, replicating them, and then going further with those results, what you're advocating is getting rid of science.

      Perhaps instead you should stop reading things that make you mad, and let science get on with gradually solving the world's problems.

  • by mAineAc (580334) <mAineAc_____@hotm a i l . com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:05AM (#34099806) Homepage
    Will this help in the effectiveness of antivirals for things like herpes, hepatitis and aids?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hallucinogen (1263152)
      Probably not. Different viruses have different protein coats, and antibodies are very specific on what they attach themselves onto. Should we manage to find a way around this problem (creating specific antibodies for other virions), the next problem would be an even bigger one. Common cold is a positive sense ssRNA virus meaning that its genome is a single stranded piece (or pieces, can't remember) of RNA that functions directly as mRNA for making proteins. Herpes viruses are dsDNA viruses meaning that thei
    • Will this help in the effectiveness of antivirals for things like herpes, hepatitis and aids?

      Possibly. The main reason herpes and HIV are so nasty is because the virus behaves in a fundamentally different manner than it does in colds, influenza, and even hepatitis. Most viruses get into a cell and replicate madly until the cell bursts, and then the millions of viral particles produced go out and infect adjacent cells, and so forth. That's called the lytic cycle. A few viruses -- herpes, HIV, a handful of others -- have a different cycle called a lysogenic cycle, in which they get inside a cell

  • D20 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Taibhsear (1286214) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @08:24AM (#34099944)

    Virus rollls self for initiative.

  • Great. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Morky (577776)
    I can't wait for super-colds to arrive, thanks to this breakthrough. The common cold is innocuous enough, so why force it to evolve?
  • Original paper? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SlashBugs (1339813) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @09:27AM (#34100506)
    Can anyone find the original journal article? From a fairly quick PubMed search, James' group last published on TRIM21 back in 2008 [nih.gov]. There have been a few papers on TRIM21 in 2010, but they're not from James' institution and they don't share any authors with James' 2008 paper.

    Or is this being reported before the paper has been published? Do we know that it has even been properly reviewed?

    This is really cool if it's true and it's relevant to my research, so I'd love to see the original paper.
  • "...the first clinical trials of new drugs based on the findings could begin within two to five years." Am I the only one that wouldn't mind a moratorium on this sort of reporting. Let us know when the clinical trials are starting, or perhaps when it's hitting the market. Otherwise it's a bunch of false hope with little in the way of practical application in any meaningful timeframe.
  • by Mortiss (812218) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:35AM (#34101286)
    "...In any immunology textbook you will read that once a virus makes it into a cell, that is game over because the cell is now infected. At that point there is nothing the immune response can do other than kill that cell,..."

    What a load of crap. Cells have a plenty of methods to fight virus infections. For example viral RNA silencing or interferon alpha/beta response. Moreover, killing of the infected cells is also a viable immune strategy.
    So it is not a game over... In addition, where is the link to the original publication? (article or it didn't happen!)
  • Suppose some chinese clinic TODAY starts using these pre-trial findings to implement a new cough medicine, and floods the world with cheap prices for what might be poisonus snake oil...

    Unlike IT's draft-n business, I am rather willing to hold this extremely long 2-5 year TRIAL + marketting and initial delivery times, but am sure some early implementation will claim to be as good as the finished n product. Matter of fact, if any "draft-n" medicine doesn't kill people, it will be hard to kill even after the t

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