Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Possibility Of Cracking Herpes Now Exists

Cold sores and shingles, two forms of the very annoying – and very difficult to deal with – herpes virus may no longer be as difficult to find and flush out as it has been since it was discovered. U.S.-based researchers believe they have managed to found a way to flush out the annoying little virus using a mysterious genetic trait carried by the herpes simplex-1 virus – which causes cold sores in those who are infected by it – that allows it to linger undetected in the nerves that it infects. The herpes virus, according to the research team, manages to remain in stealth mode via the use of microRNAs, small bits of genetic material that allow for the regulation of the activities of many viruses.

According to the researchers, it is possible to force the virus to become active, and then proceed to eliminate it by using standard antiviral medications. One cited example was acyclovir. This information was stated by Jennifer Lin Umbach, from Duke University in North Carolina, who was one of those who worked on the study that obtained the data. Umbach said that the team was trying to go into animal trials to determine the veracity of their assumptions.

Based on news reports, the team from Duke is engaging in discussions for a potential collaborative effort with Regulus Therapeutics LLC, a joint venture between Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc and Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The group is known for specializing in microRNA studies.

The herpes viruses are known for causing many permanent infections, often heading straight to the nerve cells they damage. The ability of the virus to remain dormant in the life of any given host – animal or human – can often cause periodic outbreaks to occur when the virus begins to awaken. Herpes simplex-1 causes cold sores, herpes simplex 2 causes genital herpes, and varicella can cause chicken pox in younger patients. For older patients, varicella can appear as herpes zoster, the cause of shingles. Anti-viral medications have only been known to slow the progress of the virus down, not remove it from the body outright.

The main problem I’ve seen in texts about herpes is that it can’t be killed with any treatment available if the bug is still inactive. Without the virus being active and causing damage, it simply can’t be treated or stopped. Another interesting trait of the condition is that the same virus can end up infecting different neurons in the same body, and were also able to activate the infections at different times. These two combined traits make it difficult – if not outright impossible – to wipe out an infection in a single person, let alone a widespread and dormant one. This means that discovering the gene that controls the microRNAs that trigger the active stage of the virus can go a long way in helping medical science counter the threat of herpes.

However, for the time being, this is all strictly conjecture at this point. There’s still no direct evidence saying that it would be possible to activate those genetic markers, let alone be able to activate them reliably. Still, this is currently the best lead medical science has to finding a cure for herpes, so not everything is bad.

Resource Box : Harvey Ong is currently employed as a researcher for an online media company, currently writing about pharmaceutical products and herbal remedies. He is also an amateur paleontologist and has a collection of various animal toxins, for research reasons.

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