Scientists simulate common cold virus in 3D for better drugs

July 17th, 2012 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 17 (IANS) Researchers are simulating the motion of the complete human rhinovirus causing the common cold, in 3D, with the help of a supercomputer, paving the way for new drugs.

Rhinovirus infection is linked to about 70 percent of cases of aggravation of asthma, with more than 50 percent of these patients requiring hospitalisation. Furthermore, over 35 percent of patients with acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are hospitalised each year due to respiratory viruses including rhinovirus.

A new antiviral drug to treat rhinovirus infections is being developed by Melbourne company Biota Holdings Ltd, targeted for those with these existing conditions where the common cold is a serious threat to their health and could prove fatal.

“Our recently published work with Biota shows that the drug binds to the shell that surrounds the virus, called the capsid. But that work doesn’t explain in precise detail how the drug and other similar acting compounds work,” said Michael Parker, professor at the St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVI) and the University of Melbourne.

Parker and his team are working on the newly installed IBM Blue Gene/Q at the University of Melbourne with computational biologists from IBM and the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI), according to a Melbourne statement.

“Supercomputer technology enables us to delve deeper in the mechanisms at play inside a human cell, particularly how drugs work at a molecular level. This work offers exciting opportunities for speeding up the discovery and development of new antiviral treatments and hopefully save many lives around the world,” added Parker.

In production from July 1, 2012, the IBM Blue Gene/Q is the most powerful supercomputer dedicated to life sciences research in the Southern Hemisphere and currently ranked the fastest in Australia.

“The IBM Blue Gene/Q will provide us with extraordinary 3D computer simulations of the whole virus in a time frame not even dreamt of before,” Parker said.

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