Artificial cells to trap deadly viruses

Updated: Mar 03, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Artificial "protocells" that can lure, entrap and inactivate a class of deadly human viruses have been designed by researchers.

The technique offers a new research tool to study in detail the mechanism by which viruses attack cells, potentially opening the way to a new class of antiviral drugs.

The study details how the novel artificial cells achieved almost 100 percent success rate in deactivating Nipah and Hendra viruses, two emerging henipaviruses that can cause fatal encephalitis (brain inflammation), the journal Public Library of Science reports.

"We often call them honey pot protocells," says National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) materials scientist David LaVan.

"The lure, the irresistibly sweet bait that you can use to capture something," adds LaVan, according to a NIST statement.

In controlled experiments, the team demonstrated the protocells are amazingly effective decoys, essentially clearing a test solution of active viruses.