Nav: Home

New Zika virus inhibitor identified

May 16, 2017

La Jolla, Calif., May 16, 2017 -- New research led by Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), and Alex Strongin, Ph.D., professor at SBP, could be a first step toward a drug to treat Zika infections. Publishing in Antiviral Research, the scientific team discovered a compound that prevents the virus from spreading.

"We identified a small molecule that inhibits the Zika virus protease, and show that it blocks viral propagation in human cells and in mice," Terskikh says. "Anti-Zika drugs are desperately needed. The fact that the compound seems to work in vivo is really promising, so we plan to use it as a starting point to make an even more potent and effective drug."

The Zika virus has been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization, a rare designation indicating that a coordinated global response is needed. The reason Zika is considered such a threat is that it's spreading rapidly through the Americas, including parts of the U.S., and can cause severe complications. Zika has been linked to an increase in cases of microcephaly, a birth abnormality in which the head and brain are unusually small, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rapidly developing neurological condition that causes weakness of the arms and legs and can progress to life-threatening respiratory failure.

"Microcephaly is likely just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential adverse effects of maternal Zika infection," comments Terskikh. "There may be other, less obvious impacts on brain development that wouldn't be apparent until later. That's something we're also investigating."

The scientific team took advantage of a library of compounds that Strongin's lab had previously shown to inhibit the same component of the related West Nile virus. They also tested structurally similar molecules available at the SBP's Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics (Prebys Center) to determine whether any also blocked the protease.

The screening process identified three promising compounds, which were then tested for their ability to prevent Zika infection of human brain cells. The best one of these also reduced the amount of virus circulating in the blood of Zika-infected mice.

"The inhibitor's efficacy in animals is the key to the study's significance," Terskikh adds. "This, and the fact that the compound is likely to be safe make it especially promising. The

compound blocks a part of the protease that's unique to viruses, so it doesn't inhibit similar human proteases. It's also much more potent than previously identified inhibitors of the Zika protease."

This future drug is just one part of the fight against Zika. An experimental vaccine is set to move into phase 2 clinical trials in June.

"In addition to a Zika vaccine, we still need antivirals," explains Terskikh. "Some people may be exposed who haven't been vaccinated. Having a way to treat the infection could help stop Zika from spreading and prevent its sometimes devastating effects."
-end-
This research was performed in collaboration with scientists at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health (R21NS10047).

About SBP

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) is an independent nonprofit medical research organization that conducts world-class, collaborative, biological research and translates its discoveries for the benefit of patients. SBP focuses its research on cancer, immunity, neurodegeneration, metabolic disorders and rare children's diseases. The Institute invests in talent, technology and partnerships to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries that will have the greatest impact on patients. Recognized for its world-class NCI-designated Cancer Center and the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, SBP employs about 1,100 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at SBPdiscovery.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/SBPdiscovery and on Twitter @SBPdiscovery.

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Related Brain Articles:

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.
Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.
Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.
BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.
Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data
In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D.
Blue Brain Project releases first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas
The Blue Brain Cell Atlas is like ''going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth'' -- providing previously unavailable information on major cell types, numbers and positions in all 737 brain regions.
Landmark study reveals no benefit to costly and risky brain cooling after brain injury
A landmark study, led by Monash University researchers, has definitively found that the practice of cooling the body and brain in patients who have recently received a severe traumatic brain injury, has no impact on the patient's long-term outcome.
Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain 'plasticity'
Researchers from the Salk Institute have shown that astrocytes -- long-overlooked supportive cells in the brain -- help to enable the brain's plasticity, a new role for astrocytes that was not previously known.
Largest brain study of 62,454 scans identifies drivers of brain aging
In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John's Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging.
More Brain News and Brain Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#544 Prosperity Without Growth
The societies we live in are organised around growth, objects, and driving forward a constantly expanding economy as benchmarks of success and prosperity. But this growing consumption at all costs is at odds with our understanding of what our planet can support. How do we lower the environmental impact of economic activity? How do we redefine success and prosperity separate from GDP, which politicians and governments have focused on for decades? We speak with ecological economist Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Propserity, and author of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab