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Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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Researchers Draw Connection Between Protein and Ricin Immunity

Scientists in Austria have discovered that the absence of a specific protein in mouse cells results in immunity against ricin poisoning, potentially opening the doors to development of an antidote for the deadly biological toxin, the London Daily Mail reported last week (see GSN, July 26).

Researchers found that mouse cells that did not have the Gpr107 protein were able to withstand exposure to ricin, according to a recent Cell article. The trial involved cutting-edge technology and thousands of stem cells from mice.

"Our research suggests a specific antidote could now be developed by making a small molecule to block the Gpr107 protein," Austrian Academy of Sciences researcher Ulrich Elling said.

"The possible uses of this discovery are endless," study co-author Josef Penninger said. "They range from fundamental issues, like which genes are necessary for the proper function of a heart muscle cell, to concrete applications as we have done in the case of ricin toxicity."

There is presently no cure for ricin, a potential bioterror agent that is deadly in even trace amounts. The toxin, derived from castor beans, was used to kill Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978 and mailed to a U.S. Senate office in 2004 (London Daily Mail, Dec. 1).


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