Tuesday, October 7, 2014

mRNA from Plants as Treatment for Influenza A?

Growing up with Chinese parents, I often was given herbal remedies for many ailments. Perhaps there is some actual basis behind this type of traditional medicine.

Recently, some scientists at Nanjing University made an interesting scientific find - honeysuckle (a plant sometimes used as a herbal remedy), contains a specific miRNA (MIR2911) that targets Influenza A Virus. Given that we're about to enter flu season, this new information is particularly relevant at the moment.

From one of the extra credit problems from week one, we learned that microRNAs are used to prevent gene expression by binding to mRNAs and preventing translation of the mRNA to protein. The scientists working on this research found that MIR2911 specifically targets some of the genes in Influenza A used for replication.

So what is so interesting about this particular finding?

Typically anti-virals are engineered and manufactured in a lab. This miRNA can be directly isolated from honeysuckle plants and used for treatments. The levels of MIR2911 necessary for sufficient anti-viral activity can be taken in through normal consumption of tea made from honeysuckle intake. This eliminates the need for the concentration and purification of the miRNA to see results.

Not just that, but this anti-viral ability of MIR2911 extends past just affecting Influenza A Virus. It has other widespread effects on other viruses as well. Supposedly these researchers have found that this miRNA also has anti-viral effects against Ebola virus as well.

Guess ancient Chinese people knew that they were doing!

-Anna Duan


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