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article imageBanana drug effective against viruses

By Tim Sandle     Nov 8, 2015 in World
Detroit - A chemical originally found bananas has the potential to combat a range of viruses , according to a new study. The drug is able to block the mechanism viruses use to take over human cells.
The identified active substance is a protein called banana lectin (BanLec). The protein translates sugars located on the outside of both viruses and cells and can block viruses from entering cells. The protein was isolated from the fruit of the bananas Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The protein is predominant within the pulp of ripe bananas.
One downside with the protein is a risk of side effects, such as inflammation. To overcome this, and after several years of progressive research, a tiny part of the molecule that causes side effects was identified. This was a gene and it was located through x-ray scanning. This gene was modified using advanced molecular biological techniques. The end result was the production of a modified form of BanLec, which has been termed H84T. The modified protein has one less molecule on its external surface, otherwise it is identical to the banana plant extract.
The modified BanLec has been used in trials conducted with mice. Mice were infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and with hepatitis C and influenza. The protein was found to be effective in terms of virus blocking; moreover, the protein did not cause any observable side effects in terms of inflammation or obvious irritation.
The next phase of the research is to examine the efficacy of H84T BanLec as a broad spectrum antiviral agent. This will require further animal testing before human trials can be considered. The initial focus will be with influenza-causing viruses.
The study was conducted at the University of Michigan Health System with the findings reported to the journal Cell. Although based in the U.S., the research group was made up of international experts — from Germany, Ireland, Canada, Belgium and the U.S. The research paper is titled “Engineering a Therapeutic Lectin by Uncoupling Mitogenicity from Antiviral Activity.”
More about banana virus, Banana, Virus, Medicine, BanLec
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