Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University compared the protein, called hemagglutinin, with a similar protein found on the surface of the influenza A virus.
Assistant Professor Qinghua Wang , Associate Professor Jianpeng Ma, and colleagues said the comparison might be key to understanding the changes that must occur before avian flu -- a form of the influenza A virus -- mutates to a form that can easily infect humans, said Ma, who holds a joint appointment at Rice.
Ma and Wang have identified a particular residue or portion of the protein that might play a role in how different types of hemagglutinin bind to human cells.
The complex study is presented in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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