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Scientists closer to a common cold cure

Wednesday 3 Nov 2010 10:59 a.m.

Sneezing, coughing and sniffing… welcome to winter and the common cold virus. A cure for the illness has eluded us for years.

However, a major breakthrough by scientists at Cambridge University brings that cure a step closer. They have discovered a new way that our bodies fight off viruses.

“Before we'd always thought that antibodies, which protect us from viruses, can only work outside cells and once a virus has infected a cell there's nothing your immune system can do, all it can do is kill the infected cell,” explains Dr Leo James, Research leader at Cambridge University. “But what we've discovered now is that antibodies can work inside the cell where they trigger a system of immunity that allows the cells to get rid of the viruses that are infecting them.”

As the virus enters the cell it draws antibodies with it.

Inside a protein called TRIM21 recognises the antibody as a foreign body and latches on to it.

The TRIM21 protein then attracts powerful anti-viral agents which degrades the virus - saving the cell.

So by designing medicines to boost that protein and enhance the body's natural defences we could have a cure for the common cold.

Every year almost all of us catch colds, millions of us end up at the doctors because of it, so any cure would be very welcome. But the new research is revolutionary if it could help us combat viruses in general.

While the lab results of this historic discovery are very encouraging, it will be at least two-five years before any clinical trials can begin for any future treatments.

3 News / ITV

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