Research ArticleArenaviruses

siRNA Screen for Genes That Affect Junín Virus Entry Uncovers Voltage-Gated Calcium Channels as a Therapeutic Target

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Science Translational Medicine  25 Sep 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 204, pp. 204ra131
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006827

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Drug repurposing is becoming the focus of an increasingly large body of biomedical research. A drug that has already achieved regulatory approval is less likely to have unexpected toxicity, paving the way for approval against previously unthought-of diseases. Now, Lavanya et al. report that drugs that target voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) may be a new area of therapy against New World arenavirus infection.

Although human diseases caused by arenaviruses range in severity, the most severe, such as Junín viruses, may cause hemorrhagic fever. The authors used a high-throughput small interfering RNA screening approach to identify VGCCs as a putative target for Junín virus infection. Either knocking down VGCCs or blocking them with channel blockers decreased viral fusion and subsequent cell entry and infection. What’s more, gabapentin, a Food and Drug Administration–approved drug that targets VGCCs, inhibited Junín virus infection in a mouse model. If these data hold true in humans, VGCC blockers may be a new therapeutic avenue for Junín virus infection.

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