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 Halting the virus: the race is on!

25.09.20.  It’s probably unknown how many scientists, universities, laboratories and researchers are burning the midnight oil in quest of arresting the coronavrus pandemic. However, given the surge in scientific papers appearing in journals the race to success is near and many. Here is one from the University of Bristol UK.
A druggable pocket in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein that could be used to stop the virus from infecting human cells has been discovered by an international team of scientists led by the University of Bristol. The researchers say their findings, published today [21 September] in the journal Science, are a potential ‘game changer’ in defeating the current pandemic and add that small molecule anti-viral drugs developed to target the pocket they discovered could help eliminate COVID-19.

Source: Bristol.ac.uk

Press release issued: 21 September 2020

Discovery of a druggable pocket in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein could stop virus in its tracks

SARS-CoV-2 is decorated by multiple copies of a glycoprotein, known as the ‘Spike protein’, which plays an essential role in viral infectivity. Spike binds to the human cell surface, allowing the virus to penetrate the cells and start replicating, causing widespread damage.
In this ground-breaking study, the team headed by Professor Christiane Schaffitzel from Bristol’s School of Biochemistry andProfessor Imre Berger from the Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology, used a powerful imaging technique, electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM), to analyse SARS-CoV-2 Spike at near atomic resolution. Enabled by Oracle high-performance cloud computing, a 3D structure of SARS CoV-2 Spike protein was generated allowing the researchers to peer deep inside the Spike identifying its molecular composition.
Unexpectedly, the research team’s analysis revealed the presence of a small molecule, linoleic acid (LA), buried in a tailor-made pocket within the Spike protein.  LA is a free fatty acid, which is indispensable for many cellular functions. The human body cannot produce LA. Instead, the body absorbs this essential molecule through diet. Intriguingly, LA plays a vital role in inflammation and immune modulation, which are both key elements of COVID-19 disease progression. LA is also needed to maintain cell membranes in the lungs so that we can breathe properly.
Professor Berger said: “We were truly puzzled by our discovery, and its implications. So here we have LA, a molecule which is at the centre of those functions that go haywire in COVID-19 patients, with terrible consequences. And the virus that is causing all this chaos, according to our data, grabs and holds on to exactly this molecule – basically disarming much of the body’s defences.”
Professor Schaffitzel explained: “From other diseases we know that tinkering with LA metabolic pathways can trigger systemic inflammation, acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. These pathologies are all observed in patients suffering from severe COVID-19.  A recent study of COVID-19 patients showed markedly reduced LA levels in their sera.”
Professor Berger adds: “Our discovery provides the first direct link between LA, COVID-19 pathological manifestations and the virus itself. The question now is how to turn this new knowledge against the virus itself and defeat the pandemic.”
There is reason for hope. In rhinovirus, a virus causing the common cold, a similar pocket was exploited to develop potent small molecules that bound tightly to the pocket distorting the structure of the rhinovirus, stopping its infectivity. These small molecules were successfully used as anti-viral drugs in human trials and show promise for treating rhinovirus clinically. The Bristol team, based on their data, is optimistic that a similar strategy can now be pursued to develop small molecule anti-viral drugs against SARS-CoV-2..
Professor Schaffitzel said: “COVID-19 continues to cause widespread devastation and in the absence of a proven vaccine, it is vital that we also look at other ways to combat the disease. If we look at HIV, after 30 years of research what worked in the end is a cocktail of small molecule anti-viral drugs that keeps the virus at bay. Our discovery of a druggable pocket within the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein could lead to new anti-viral drugs to shut down and eliminate the virus before it entered human cells, stopping it firmly in its tracks.”
Alison Derbenwick Miller, Vice President, Oracle for Research, added: “Oracle for Research unites researchers and cloud computing to help bring about beneficial change for our planet and its people. SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are causing global devastation, and research efforts to find vaccines and treatments cannot move quickly enough. We are so pleased that Oracle’s high-performance cloud infrastructure enabled Professors Berger and Schaffitzel to examine the molecular structures of the coronavirus spike protein and make this powerful  and unexpected new discovery that could help curb the pandemic and save lives.”
The team included experts from Bristol UNCOVER Group, Bristol biotech Imophoron Ltd, the Max Planck Institute for Biomedical Research in Heidelberg, Germany and Geneva Biotech Sàrl, Switzerland. The study was supported by funds from the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute with additional support from Oracle high-performance cloud computing andGenscript. We are very grateful to the University of Bristol’s alumni and friends for their generous philanthropic support of this research.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Austin Ayforti 25/09/2020, 7:03 am

    Just leave the bug alone and let nature and what’s left of our immune systems take care of it as they are designed to. Find something of benefit to spend squillions on in research.

    • Ivan Ackeroff 25/09/2020, 11:09 am

      I’ll ask you to reconfirm that suggestion from your bed in the Wuflu ICU Ward, Austin.

      • Austin Ayforti 25/09/2020, 8:10 pm

        Time to open your eyes to reality Ivan ol’ son. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

  • Ian 25/09/2020, 7:08 am

    I find it amazing that evolution has enabled a collection of 4 sugars to form into strings called RNA that have the ability to reproduce using the factory like facilities available in a living cell, it self engineered from those four sugars, this time as DNA.

    What I find stupid is the modern scientist who would create a drug that will completely block one of the chemical signalling combinations that the virus uses and then suggest that this ‘cure’ will beat the virus and do no harm to the individual that receives the treatment.

    I’m betting that over the near billion years of development of the cells that form our bodies, that same messenger point that they intend to block has been used for some desired purpose and that blocking it will likely have some deleterious consequences.

    What if that blocked route is used once in a blue moon by our bodies internal protection system to prevent cells from forming into cancer cells. This outcome will not be exposed for many years, as some rare form of cancer starts increasing in the population. Will the MSM incorrectly call the cancer a side effect caused by Covid? How long will it be before the ‘cure’ is diagnosed as the cause?

    Like all things involving RNA/DNA until you know what ALL the buttons do, it’s probably best not to be pressing too many, especially the big red ones.

    • John 25/09/2020, 8:05 am

      I think that last sentence is called “The Cane Toad Rationale” Ian.
      And the questions remains. Whats going to happen when the CCP release the Covid 21?.

  • Pensioner Pete 25/09/2020, 7:16 am

    PP survived yet another winter, using common sense and ingesting Sodium Ascorbate daily, economic, simple as, and most effective year after year after year.

  • Lorraine 25/09/2020, 7:21 am

    The race is on for the Billionaires to make more money, no one has a vaccine to fix the common cold , and the flu vaccine has to be taken every year so they have constant income stream from that crap going into peoples body. I to took the flu shot for a few years , then I read what was in it and have not bothered to take for the last 4 or 5 years. This new vaccine made with baby parts ,will not be on my list to do either

    • Pensioner Pete 25/09/2020, 8:39 am

      Spot on Lorraine.

  • Sir Peter 25/09/2020, 11:05 am

    If the sinofascists develop a vaccine will they sell it or give the patent to us?

    If they attempt to profit from it we should steal it. THEY can hardly complain about theft of intellectual property

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