That's what happened when I found this article on MIT news. A team of researcher from the MIT Lincoln's laboratory developped a new drug that can identify cells infected by virus and terminate them. And that, my friend, is full of awesome.
The Problem with Treating Viruses
Viruses have this badass and terrifying strategy in which they infect the host's cells, hijack their resources and begin to multiply. The cell does have a few defenses to prevent this, but most viruses have found ways to bypass and counter these. Otherwise they wouldn't, you know, still exist.
The point is that once the virus is inside the host cell, it becomes difficult to distinguish from the non-infected cells. We manage to develop specific drugs for specific viruses by hindering their unique ways to act, but viruses have such a vast array of techniques and molecules that it is almost impossible to produce one drug that affects them all.
That is what the MIT's lab achieved. One drug for most viruses.
How the hell?
OK. This is the science part. Let's try and keep it simple. Every cell has DNA, on which we have carry genetic information. In order to access that information, we create an RNA molecule (think of it as a close-cousin of DNA) from the DNA, which is then read and transformed into a protein.
DNA is double-stranded in humans -- you've all seen the double helix image. RNA, however, is single stranded. Just one long string that twists.
Basic human scheme: Double stranded DNA --> Single stranded RNA --> Protein
Here are the key points.
1. There is never any double stranded RNA in the human process.
2. There is almost always double stranded RNA in the viral duplication.
Todd Rider's drug identifies cells with double-stranded RNA inside them and hits their self-destruct button.*
And you know the best thing about this drug? It's called DRACO. Not just for fun. The acronym means something. It is also badass.
They tested the drug against influenza (your day-to-day cold) and dengue fever (a cousin of Ebola), and it worked. These are two very very very different viruses. At the moment they're trying DRACO on other viruses in mice before moving to bigger animals, and eventually humans. So it's not ready or finished yet, but one can hope.
And for those of you who want to see more of the science, the drug's action mecanism is explained in more details in the article. Plus pictures of their tests. It's neat!
*Yes, there is such a thing in cells. It's one of the most broken mecanism of cancer cells. Self-destruct buttons: not as useless as in sci-fi movies.