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Harvard Researchers Discover Flu-Fighting Protein

The findings of a new study published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Cell may help researchers create better preventions and vaccines for the flu.

The researchers from Harvard Medical School, discovered a new family of natural anti-viral proteins in the human cell. These proteins are called interferon-indicible transmembrane proteins.

They discovered these proteins by using a new cutting edge technique called RNA interference. This technique allows the researchers to turn off specific genes in a cell then expose that cell to different strains of viruses.

When the researchers blocked the interferon protein, they found that viruses replicated 5-10 times faster. This demonstrated that the protein works as a guard to the cell that literally will not let viruses gain entry and cause harm.

These proteins protect us every day and appear to fight the H1N1 virus, the West Nile virus and dengue virus, and even showed potential for fighting yellow fever.

The researchers also found that if they make the cell produce more of the protein, they become more resistant to the flu.

Although the research is still ongoing, the researchers are confident that these findings will soon lead to better vaccines and more effective ways to protect people from the flu.

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