The term “rhino” is derived from the Greek word for “nose.” Hence, human rhinoviruses are those responsible for the common cold and some can even pose a serious threat to those with asthma.
In a recent review article on the cover of the Journal of Virology, biochemistry professor Ann Palmenberg summarizes hers and others’ research on the viruses that cause the common cold and specifically can harm those with asthma.
While two rhinovirus species, called A and B, are the leading cause of the common cold, the C species poses a threat to young children, particularly those with asthma. In recent years, Palmenberg’s research has focused on rhinovirus C, and in 2016, along with collaborators, solved the atomic structure of the virus for the first time. Knowing the structure of a virus is commonly the first step to learning how to combat its effects.
“These are human-specific viruses, and for a virus to infect a cell it has to recognize the right cell type based on proteins cells display on their surfaces,” explains Palmenberg, who is also a member of the Institute for Molecular Virology. “Rhinoviruses A and B use a protein called ICAM-1 to attach to and enter a cell, but Rhinovirus C uses a different protein, called CDHR3. That is what makes all the difference.”