Janet Smith

David Akey, Somnath Dutta

  University of Michigan researchers have taken a big step toward the development of a treatment or vaccine for illnesses such as West Nile virus and Dengue Fever.

Lead researcher, Janet Smith is a faculty member in the U-M Life Sciences Institute and Medical School.  She says she and her colleague were able to create a 3-D image of a protein that helps the viruses spread.

Smith says being able to study the protein in this new way will lead to more experiments to examine it at the molecular level, which could lead to development of new ways to attack illnesses such as Dengue Fever and West Nile Virus, which currently have no vaccine or treatment.

The protein, NS1, is produced inside infected cells, where it plays a key role in replication of the virus. NS1 is also released into the bloodstream, where it may help disguise the infection from the patient's immune system and may play a role in the hemorrhage that is seen in severe dengue virus infection.

The research done with scientists at Purdue University appears online in the journal Science.