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Tripping up avian flu

DNA rings hinder virus reproduction in chicken embryos

12:25pm, April 28, 2008

Small rings of designer DNA can block bird flu virus from reproducing, a new study suggests.

The work is still preliminary, but researchers say that treating chickens with such DNA rings — either by injection or by an inhaled mist — might help to slow the spread of the virus. Eventually, the technique could protect people from the disease. Efforts to develop an effective vaccine for avian flu have been unsuccessful.

Though avian flu has not yet been found in the United States, the virus has infected 381 people worldwide and killed 240 of them, according to the World Health Organization.

Once in the cells, the DNA rings produce another kind of genetic code–carrying molecule called short interfering RNAs. The letters of genetic code in these siRNAs, as they're called, exactly match part of a gene in the virus’s genome. So when the virus tries to replicate, the siRNAs can recognize and disable that viral gene, thus preve

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