Though it’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are part of a balanced diet, life science researchers continue to find health benefits in these foods beyond what anyone expected. Take the case of Ohio State University, for example, who three years ago found out that apples can lower levels of bad cholesterol. A new study from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor suggests that bananas can fight off viruses we’d otherwise be susceptible to.
Five years ago, a UMich team isolated a protein in bananas called banana lectin, or BanLec for short. BanLec had the surprising effect of defending mouse cells from infection by the virus that lets in AIDS. Unfortunately, it also had the surprising side effect of irritation and inflammation, which discouraged the team form moving to human tests.
However, new research has pinpointed the root of the side effects and, most excitingly, has found that it can be removed from BanLec without diminishing its virus-stopping powers.
"What we've done is exciting because there is potential for BanLec to develop into a broad spectrum antiviral agent, something that is not clinically available to physicians and patients right now," says Dr. David Markovitz, UMich professor of internal medicine.
Though tests up to now have been focusing on AIDS, BanLec seems equally capable of stopping any viral infection. This makes it a potentially potent clinical tool. “[W]e also hope that BanLec could become useful in situations such as emergency pandemic response, and military settings, where the precise cause of an infection is unknown but a viral cause is suspected," says Markovitz in a recent University of Michigan press release.
As the team gets ready to move to clinical trials, U-M has patented BanLec and plans to bring the technology to market.
The work was supported by three grants from the National Institutes of Health. For more detailed funding statistics regarding the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, read on with our Funding Statistics and Vendor Show Info report:
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