A chemical compound that can detect and inhibit Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infected cells in mice with an efficacy rate of above 90 percent was discovered by a research team led by the Hong Kong Baptist University.
The findings, released on Wednesday, showed that the compound containing the inhibitor luminesces when bound to the EBV encoded viral protein EBNA1 of EBV-infected cells in mice. It could thus be applied as an agent to detect the presence of tumors.
It can also prevent the formation of EBNA1 homodimer and can reduce 93 percent in size of EBV-positive tumors in mice. With further development, this could potentially be used for imaging and suppression of human tumor cells.
Associate professor of the university's Department of Chemistry Gary Wong Ka-leung said the establishment of EBV latency is closely associated with the oncogenic development of several human malignancies, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
In the past few decades, EBNA1 has been considered as an attractive target for anti-viral therapy, attracting a great deal of attention from researchers working in this community.
"Our team has developed the world's first dual agent that can simultaneously perform imaging and suppressing EBV-associated tumors," Wong said, adding that with further development, the compound could potentially be applied to the imaging of tumor cells in the human body and lead to the development of therapeutics and enhance the overall efficacy of targeted therapeutics.
The research team of this cross-disciplinary study is led by Wong and Mak Nai-ki, a professor of the university's Department of Biology.
This research was published in the renowned international journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.