DRACO ("Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer") is a group of experimental antiviral drugs under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In cell culture, DRACO is reported to have broad-spectrum efficacy against many infectious viruses, including Marburg marburgvirus and Zaire ebolavirus, dengue flavivirus, Amapari and Tacaribe arenavirus, Guama bunyavirus, H1N1 influenza and rhinovirus, and has been additionally found effective against influenza in vivo in weanling mice. It is reported to induce rapid apoptosis selectively in virus-infected mammalian cells, while leaving uninfected cells unharmed.
As of January 2014[update], work has moved to Draper Laboratory for further testing and development; "the team looks forward to larger scale animal trials and clinical human trials within a decade or less". Rider presented at the SENS Foundation's SENS6 conference.
DRACO is selective for virus-infected cells. Differentiation between infected and healthy cells is made primarily via the length and type of RNA transcription helices present within the cell. Most viruses produce long dsRNA helices during transcription and replication. In contrast, uninfected mammalian cells generally produce dsRNA helices of fewer than 24 base pairs during transcription. Cell death is effected via one of the last steps in the apoptosis pathway in which complexes containing intracellular apoptosis signaling molecules simultaneously bind multiple procaspases. The procaspases transactivate via cleavage, activate additional caspases in the cascade, and cleave a variety of cellular proteins, thereby killing the cell.
In popular culture
The theft and mass distribution of a fictionalized version of DRACO formed the basis for Tim Parise's 2013 novel L'Affaire Famille.
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- Rider TH, Zook CE, Boettcher TL, Wick ST, Pancoast JS, Zusman BD (2011). "Broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutics". PLoS ONE 6 (7): e22572. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022572. PMC 3144912. PMID 21818340.
- Fiona Macrae (11 August 2011), "Greatest discovery since penicillin: A cure for everything - from colds to HIV", The Daily Mail (UK)
- "Todd Rider Joins Draper to Continue Antiviral Therapeutics Development" (Press release). Cambridge, MA. PRWeb. January 8, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- "PANACEA broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutics". SENS6 Proceedings. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
- Parise, Tim (2013). "L'Affaire Famille". The Maui Company. p. 271. Retrieved 2014-04-29.
- Hegarty, Stephanie (20 December 2011). "Is a cure for the common cold on the way?". BBC News Online.
- "MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers develop a technique to cure a broad range of viruses". MIT Lincoln Laboratory: News. August 2011.
- "Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics" (PDF). National Center for Biotechnology Information. July 2011.
- Rider, Todd (September 2013). PANACEA broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutics. SENS6 Conference (SENS Foundation, published February 19, 2014). Retrieved April 17, 2014.