When SARS-CoV-2 began its spread around the world, scientists quickly detected that the virus' Spike protein (which gives it its peculiar shape of crowns around it) was its key to entering human cells to cause infection.
Since then, the focus for developing treatments and vaccines has been on this protein. However, a group of Chilean researchers from the Center for the Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (Cedenna) found that there are other key proteins that deserve attention.
Through a mathematical modeling system, the experts verified that there are three virus proteins that are important in the human infection process, which suggests that these are a target that can be attacked to combat covid-19.
The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports. “We unraveled that of all the mechanisms that are not understood in SARS-CoV-2, there is an interaction with several proteins of the virus that are crucial, which means that we have another target that we can attack to fight against covid-19, more beyond the Spike protein”, explains Felipe Torres, researcher at Cedenna, academic from the Department of Physics of the U. de Chile and leader of the work.
Torres adds that these are the proteins Nsp4, Nsp16 and Nsp12, whose role is to inhibit the immune response of the human cell. “This means that they make the immune system less able to fight the virus. Thus, when it infects the cell, it replicates and more disease is produced.”
And he adds: "But what our work indicates is that if we were to attack these proteins, then our immune response against the virus would be much better." That is precisely one of the applications that could arise from this study: the development of drugs or vaccines that target the identified proteins.
This is how Miguel Kiwi, national prizewinner for Exact Sciences, Cedenna researcher and co-author of the study explains it. “The idea is to facilitate the development of new drugs to combat covid-19, drugs or other types of treatments that attack these proteins. One could create new vaccination or treatment strategies, that is, forget about the target we have now and point to this other to improve the immune response and avoid a serious disease, "says the scientist.
These are the proteins Nsp4, Nsp16 and Nsp12, whose role is to inhibit the immune response of the human cell. "If we attack these proteins, then our immune response against the virus would be much better," explained Felipe Torres, one of the scientists. For this reason, the idea is that the findings of the study serve to develop drugs, pharmaceuticals and other treatments to deal with the disease.
For this reason, both experts believe, basic science is still very important and its contribution can change the course of disease outbreaks. "Basic science is essential to deal with this type of emerging situation, such as the appearance of new viruses or climate change," says Torres.
Kiwi points out: “When quantum theory emerged, no one imagined that it would change all of modern technology. We are studying covid-19 and very interesting applications may emerge from these findings