Fighting COVID-19: Scientists find new vulnerability in virus that could lead to potential treatment

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August 12, 2020 2:04 PM

Using the simulations of the spike protein at ultra-small scales, scientists have discovered a positively charged site, which allows strong bonding of the virus with the negatively charged human cell receptors leading to the entry of the virus inside the human body.

The research which got published in the journal ACS Nano found that the spike protein contains the binding site of the virus which helps the virus enter the human body and multiply in numbers. (Representative image)

Even as the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine becomes more crowded, scientists at the Northwestern University in the United States have found a new vulnerability in the novel Coronavirus which could lead to its potential treatment. The new vulnerability has been traced to the spike protein of the novel Coronavirus which enables the virus to enter the human cells, according to a report by news agency PTI. The research which got published in the journal ACS Nano found that the spike protein contains the binding site of the virus which helps the virus enter the human body and multiply in numbers.

Using the simulations of the spike protein at ultrasmall scales, scientists have discovered a positively charged site, which allows strong bonding of the virus with the negatively charged human cell receptors leading to the entry of the virus inside the human body. The positively charged site has been located at 10 nanometers from the actual binding site on the spike protein. The positively charged site is also known as the polybasic cleavage site.

Taking cues from the discovery of the positively charged polybasic cleavage site, the scientists artificially designed a negatively charged molecule that could bind to the positively charged cleavage site, in turn blocking the contact between the virus and human cells.

Monica Olvera de la Cruz, a co-author of the study from Northwestern University told PTI that the research work could lead to a prophylactic treatment of the Coronavirus that will decrease the ability of the virus to infect human cells. She also said that the treatment would be based on blocking the positively charged cleavage site which binds with the human cells to cause infection. She further said that the location of the polybasic cleavage sites in the novel Coronavirus has eluded researchers so far since the onset of the disease.

After the successful location of the polybasic cleavage sites, the scientists intend to work with pharma companies to develop a new drug that could bind to the spike protein of the virus and prevent its infection with the human cells.

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