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RNA virus studies addressed at Norman Science Café

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Susan Schroeder and her students presenting at the Science Café on Dec. 1.
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NORMAN, Okla. – The latest research into RNA virus treatments was the topic of discussion at this month’s Science Café meeting, held at Norman Public Library West on Dec. 1 and attended by approximately one dozen students from the University of Oklahoma.

In addition to providing scientific enlightenment to the public, the event also helped in furthering the training of future scientists by allowing them to present their research in public.

In a casual atmosphere, numerous studies were presented such as treatments for Ebola, Dengue fever, HIV, Hepatitis and MERS.

Susan Schroeder, a professor of biochemistry (and the professor of the students present that evening) and researcher on RNA Structure at OU, said research has incredibly increased technologically in the past several decades, reducing the time of study and therefore the cost.

“That is what it make research exciting to study,” Schroeder said, adding recent epidemics such as Zika and Ebola encouraged companies, states, and ONGs to invest more in new treatments.

One example of the recent research improvement is the study entitled “Large-scale recording of an arbovirus genome to rebalance its insect versus mammalian preference” by New York University School of Medicine and presented by Alanna Courts, a student in microbiology at OU.

The research focused on trying to stop the contamination of humans by insects carrying a type of virus commonly called “arbovirus” such as the Dengue. Courts said the research team tried to recode the genome of the Dengue virus so that the virus prefers insects over humans.

“It is a promising method to build a future vaccine,” Courts said. The vaccine needs to pass through several steps such as animal testing and clinical testing before it can be approved. This process could take several years.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 400 million people are infected yearly, with no vaccine, Dengue is a worldwide problem. The method will also able to treat others arboviruses such as yellow fever and Zika.

Another interesting research presented was the innovation entitled on “Pre- and postexposure efficacy of fully human antibodies against Spike protein in a novel humanized mouse model of MERS-CoV infection” by Regeneron, a pharmaceutical company.

Far, to only propose a vaccine to treat the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), Regeneron’s scientists found the way to use a mouse instead of a monkey, a process called “Velocimmune©.”

The new model uses a method to humanize the mouse by crossing human’s antibody with mouse’s antibody, a technic simpler than the conventional method. It thereby permits to simplify the process and therefore reduce the time and cost of the creation of a new vaccine.

The monthly Norman Science Café is organized by Jonathan Merlini. The event to propose scientific subjects presented by experts to a large public, in a relaxed atmosphere.

For more information on the next event go on the Norman Science Café’s Facebook page.

In addition, Norman Science Café is one of the numerous chapters present in the USA including Tulsa and Stillwater in Oklahoma. Again, for more information go ScienceCafes.org.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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