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Ending enablers: Stanford researcher examines genes to find virus helpers

Here’s this week’s Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that highlights some of Stanford’s most innovative research and introduces Scope readers to scientists in a variety of biomedical disciplines.

Viruses, by their very definition, are dependent. They can't dive into a body and wreak havoc by themselves — they need a little help, and that help often comes from our own genes. But which genes do viruses use to reproduce and thrive? Which genes are the enablers?

Stanford microbiologist Jan Carette, PhD, is patiently trying to figure that out — using the process of elimination. Here's Carette in the video above:

In our lab, we have developed a new technique where we take away each of the individual genes and then measure very precisely which of the genes are important for the virus... If we know which are the targets of the human genes, we can start creating a whole new class of antiviral reagents that target the human genes and not so much the virus genes as is commonly done...

This technique might lead to treatments for viruses such as influenza A, Ebola or yellow fever. Said Carette: "The research that we're doing can have a direct effect on human health... We can impact the lives of many people that are affected by viral disease."

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Exploiting insect microbiomes to curb malaria and dengue, Found: Ebola's entry point into human cells and Personal molecular profiling detects diseases earlier

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