Researchers have used computational tools for designing new proteins to incapacitate a strain of flu virus. Their research in the May 12 edition of Science shows that the computer-aided approach has promise.
To design anti-viral proteins not found in nature, the group zeroed in on a section of the flu virus called the hemagglutinin stem region, which enables the virus to break into airway cells. With the help of the computing platform known as [email protected], the group was able to understand important protein-to-protein interactions and then design anti-viral proteins to bind to that region of flu virus.
The scientists found that two of 73 new proteins identified could tightly bind to a specific region of H1N1 flu virus from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, according to a release. A Discover Magazine blog post on the research said that the computer-designed proteins should be able to combat other strains of flu as well. The group's computational method might also be useful in developing ways to treat and diagnose other viral infections.
"The challenge is to identify amino acid side chains that would fit perfectly into these surfaces (on flu viruses). The fit must be precise both in shape and in other chemical properties such as electrostatic charge," Sarel Fleishman, a lead author of the study from the University of Washington, said in a release. "This geometrical and biophysical problem can be computationally solved, but requires large computational resources."