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Sniffling mice to treat asthma

4th February 2008

A study by Imperial College in London has created mice which are vulnerable to and can catch the cold virus.

Asthma1

The genetically modified mice could pave the way towards treating asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

The rhinovirus can cause asthma attacks and colds. The viruses can bring on an attack of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which can cause death.

Up until now, scientists have been unable to infect test animals with the cold virus, As a result, treatments for colds and associated illnesses have been extremely difficult to develop.

The rhinovirus comes in one hundred known forms. 90% of these forms launch on to a certain receptor molecules on the outside of cells.

The receptors in mice do not allow the cold virus to latch on. However, the genetically modified mice were given a version similar to human receptors and therefore were vulnerable to the cold virus.

The scientists provoked "asthma-like symptoms" in the test subjects by exposure to egg white proteins, which can cause allergic symptoms in the lungs.

Lead researcher Professor Sebastian Johnston said: "These mouse models should provide a major boost to research efforts to develop new treatments for the common cold, as well as for more potentially fatal illnesses such as acute attacks of asthma and of COPD."

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said: "This important and fundamental discovery will enable us to understand the effects rhinoviruses and common colds have on our health."




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