New hope of fighting cancer virus
Scientists in the United States believe they may have found a way to beat the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered how the human papilloma virus gains a foothold in the body.
Tests on mice have shown a protein in the virus latches on to another protein in the body's cells.
Writing in the journal Cell, the researchers said the discovery could lead to new treatments.
Human papilloma viruses or HPVs are a group of more than 80 different types of viruses.
They can cause warts, including genital warts, and have been linked to cancer. They can be transmitted through sexual intercourse.
An estimated 15% of women between the ages of 20 and 30 and 6% of women over 40 carry the virus.
Scientists discovered seven years ago that the virus gains a foothold in the body by inserting its own DNA in the body's cells. It does this by means of a protein in the virus called E2.
However, they did not know how it managed to do this. The Harvard scientists say they have now discovered that E2 interacts with a protein in cells called BRD4.
They are now working with other colleagues at the university to try to find a chemical and potential drug ingredient that can block BRD4.
"We have uncovered a new target that could potentially lead to new antivirals," said Professor Peter Howley, one of those involved in the research.
"If one could come up with a small molecule or chemical that could inhibit the binding of E2 to BRD4, that could be a drug lead."
Scientists around the world are trying to developing vaccines to protect against HPV.
While there have been some promising results, trials are still in very early stages.
There is currently no cure for HPV, although in most cases it will disappear by itself.
Professor Howley said there is a need for a treatment that specifically targets HPV.
"There are no specific human papilloma virus antivirals out there at this point," he said.
Source: BBC News