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Health Beat: DRACO keeps the bad guys away

Published On: Sep 03 2014 03:38:35 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 03 2014 06:38:25 PM EDT

Scientists are researching a new compound that could wipe out the common cold, influenza and many other viral infections. The researcher behind it said the discovery could be bigger than penicillin, with far less resistance.


Two or three times a year most of us go through the misery of the common cold. That’s not even counting the stomach bug and other viruses.

Dr. Todd Rider, a scientist at the Draper laboratory in Massachusetts, is working on a way to cure viruses by getting virus-infected cells to commit suicide while keeping a person's healthy cells intact. He calls it DRACO (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer).

"DRACO is looking for this particular type of RNA that is only made by a very broad spectrum of viruses and it finds that and knows that the cell is infected," Rider said.

He created DRACO by combining three molecules. One invades cells in the body, another detects viral RNA, and a third causes the infected cells to self-destruct. Without the infected cells, the virus cannot replicate.

"Think about a burglar alarm inside every house. DRACO works by rewiring certain parts of that burglar alarm to make them more effective," Rider said.

Once the DRACO treatment is produced, it is added to cells infected with viruses and tested.

DRACO has worked against 15 viruses, so far, in Rider's experiments. He said he hopes to get more funding so he can do further testing. The treatment has been shown to be non-toxic to all of the cell types tested thus far including those from humans.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor