Oklahoma State University Researchers Make Breakthrough against Poxviruses

By Record, Journal | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 21, 2009 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma State University Researchers Make Breakthrough against Poxviruses


Record, Journal, THE JOURNAL RECORD


A major breakthrough by researchers at Oklahoma State University could be the first step towards a pharmaceutical medication for smallpox and the emerging human monkeypox.

The human immune system is rendered helpless against poxviruses partly because the viruses block a human immune molecule, interleukin-18, known as IL-18, from sending out a signal to the immune system. The body acts as if everything is fine and the deadly disease takes over.

Junpeng Deng, a structural biologist in the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at OSU, and his first- year doctorate student, Brian Krumm, joined an ongoing project midway through 2007 and Krumm found what he was looking for in December. They solved a three-dimensional crystal structure of a poxvirus protein in the act of disarming the IL-18.

"We capped a lot of others' research. This is additional information provided," said Krumm, who is credited as the major contributor to the research. "We also show many things through the structure that can't be revealed through traditional molecular biology and immunology."

The study is published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

"We know now how the proteins communicate with each other," Deng said. "In the future, we can design a drug to stop the poxvirus from blocking the IL-18 protein."

As there is currently no medication for poxvirus-caused diseases, this research could aid national and international security efforts against potential poxvirus use as bioterrorism. …

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