Viruses are difficult to treat because they mutate very quickly – by the time a drug is developed, it may no longer work. That’s why IBM Research teamed up with the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) to design a macromolecule that can treat viruses no matter how much they mutate. The researchers tested their macromolecule against Zika, Ebola, and dengue fever with success.
Dr. Yi Yan Yang of IBN said, “Viral diseases continue to be one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. We have created an anti-viral macromolecule that can tackle wily viruses by blocking the virus from infecting the cells, regardless of mutations. It is not toxic to healthy cells and is safe for use. This promising research advance represents years of hard work and collaboration with a global community of researchers.”
The macromolecule works in three ways, or with a “powerful triple-play action.” First, it attracts the proteins on viruses so they won’t infect cells that are healthy. Second, it prevents the virus from growing by bolstering the body’s immune system. Third, it works to halt virus replication.
The researchers said the macromolecule could be incorporated in anti-viral wipes or detergent to help people avoid infections soon. In the future, the macromolecule could be utilized to develop a new way to vaccinate.
The IBM Watson technology platform could help researchers delve into applications faster as these viruses threaten humanity. Watson could help analyze data or find clinical trial participants. IBM Research lead researcher James Hendrick said to Forbes, “Watson is going to play a very key role in helping us tune these strategies and make them more broadly applicable. We’re just beginning to exploit data science and methods for drawing correlations between what we and others have done to develop more effective treatments.”