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A Japanese team has found some existing medical agents effective in inhibiting RNA viruses, including the new coronavirus, through an experiment using induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells.

The results of the study were published in the online edition of European science journal FEBS Open Bio on Wednesday.

The medical agents include raloxifene, a drug for osteoporosis, remdesivir, an antiviral drug approved in Japan as a COVID-19 treatment, and pioglitazone, used to treat diabetes.

The team, including researchers from Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), said that their findings would be useful in developing new treatments for viral diseases although clinical trials need to be conducted to finally confirm the effects of the drugs.

In the study, the team first administered 500 drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to iPS cells infected with Sendai virus, an RNA virus often used in gene therapy research. Six of them, including raloxifene, remdesivir and pioglitazone, showed effects in curbing infection.

The team then used the six drugs for human liver-derived cells infected with the Ebola virus and African green monkey kidney cells infected with the new coronavirus.

Raloxifene and remdesivir showed antiviral effects for both the Ebola- and new coronavirus-infected cells, while pioglitazone proved effective against the coronavirus.

“If we have drugs capable of inhibiting multiple RNA viruses, they could also be effective against new viruses that may be discovered in the future,” Haruhisa Inoue, professor at CiRA, said.

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