Scientists discover new target to destroy covid-19

In the search for more effective remedies against the covid-19 virus, American scientists have discovered a potential target capable of destroying the infectious agent: the GRP78 protein, present in the viral membrane. In preclinical studies, the new attack route for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has shown promise.

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Published in scientific journal Nature Communications, The study that details the new target to destroy covid-19 was led by researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) and the Center for Cancer Research and Innovation at the Cleveland Clinic.

“We now have direct evidence” that the new target for fighting Covid-19 is promising, says Amy S. Lee, a professor of biochemistry at USC and one of the study’s authors, in a statement. “GRP78 is an essential protein for virus replication,” she adds.

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Study on the new target that can destroy covid-19

Scientists discover new target to destroy the covid-19 virus, the GRP78 protein (Image: Vladimirzotov/Envato Elements)

In virology, the GRP78 region is known as the chaperone protein, because its function is directly linked with that of the protein spike (S) — the current focus of most drugs and vaccines. In the body, it is as if S was the key for the covid-19 virus to open the “door” of healthy cells, which is fundamental. But this only occurs after the GRP78 indicates the location of the lock.

Faced with this hypothesis, the scientists tested ways to suppress the GRP78 protein in laboratory tests (in vitro), with a culture of human cells infected by the covid-19 virus. In this experiment, a molecule called HA15 — originally developed as an anti-cancer drug — was used, which inactivates this new target.

Next, the researchers also tested the HA15 drug in mice that had been genetically engineered to express a human SARS-CoV-2 receptor and infected with SARS-CoV-2. Again, the results were promising and the drug that inhibits GRP78 reduced the viral load in the guinea pigs’ lungs.

“We found that this drug was very effective in reducing the number and size of SARS-CoV-2 plaques produced in infected cells. When used in safe doses, they had no harmful effect on normal cells,” says Lee.

Covid medicine can be used against other diseases

In addition to combating covid-19, the discovery of the GRP78 target may be the solution for controlling other viral diseases, such as Ebola and Zika. That’s because both infectious agents carry this protein on the viral membrane. Cancer studies also look promising.

Now, researchers must continue to study and investigate the effects of HA15 against the GRP78 protein. In the future, it is possible that we will find a new safe and effective medicine against covid-19.

Read the article on Canaltech.

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