London: As worldwide vaccination programmes are currently on, a team of researchers has presented a compound that might provide a basis for the development of drugs against Covid-19.
The researchers, including Jasmin Mecinovic from the University of Southern Denmark, said the idea is to prevent the virus from entering the body’s cells.
If the virus does not enter the cells, it cannot survive. Instead, the immune system destroys the viral particles, thus preventing an infection, the researchers said.
According to the study, published in the journal Chemical Communications, SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the family of coronaviruses, which are named after their characteristic crown-shaped envelope that shields its RNA from being damaged.
This crown is made up out of viral spike proteins, which act as the lock-picks used by the virus to break into a host cell.
The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein specifically interacts with an enzyme, called ACE2 receptor, to initiate cell entry and infection, the team said.
The ACE2 receptor is found on the surface of cells in many different tissues and is especially common in the lungs. For this reason, SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to (severe) respiratory disease symptoms for many people.
The team has found that peptides (a small part of a protein), made to look exactly like the ACE2 receptor, can act as a decoy and prevent binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
This suggests that molecular decoys based on the ACE2 receptor might be an effective therapeutic to prevent infection by the virus, the researchers said.
Getting a new drug to the market is, however, a long journey. The next step is to continue studying our synthetic peptide – for example by making variations of it to see if we can improve its potency, they added.