Novel Molecule Targets Coronavirus and Boosts Antiviral Drug

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have been working hard to create antiviral medications and treatments. Recently, Scientists working to combat the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, have made significant scientific progress.

The goal of the research, which Jin Kim Montclare and her group are leading, is to design and create a novel protein that can attach to the spike proteins on the coronavirus's surface. This novel strategy aims to prevent the virus from infecting human cells in addition to identifying and recognizing it for diagnostic purposes.

The protein that has been engineered has a peculiar structure that resembles a five-armed structure. It has a hydrophobic pore inside of its coiled-coil structure. This characteristic allows the protein to bind to the virus and also to bind to and capture small molecules, like Ritonavir, an antiviral medication.

Ritonavir is already a treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infections, so it makes sense to incorporate it into this protein therapy. The researchers hope to increase the effectiveness of the treatment by directly targeting the virus by integrating Ritonavir into the protein.

The research represents a noteworthy progression in the battle against COVID-19, exhibiting a diverse strategy to counteract the infection. The team has developed a promising approach that could completely alter current treatment modalities by combining computational design and protein engineering.

The results provide proof of principle for the therapeutic potential of the designed protein, even though the research is still in its early stages and neither human nor animal trials have been carried out to date. By improving the protein's binding affinity to the virus spike protein, the team has laid the foundation for further research.

This protein-based treatment has uses that go beyond treating COVID-19. Due to its dual mode of action (neutralizing virus particles and preventing viral entry into human cells), its versatility opens doors to combating a variety of viral infections.

The accomplishments of this research also highlight the significance of computational methods in protein design. The researchers have sped up the process of protein engineering, allowing for quick iterations and optimization, by utilizing computational tools like Rosetta.

The creation of this unique protein is a major advancement in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. The combination of protein engineering and computational design holds potential for the creation of novel medicines with broad-spectrum antiviral properties as research advances.

This research gives hope for a future where effective treatments against new viral threats are within reach, even though challenges still exist.

Source:
Journal reference:

‌Britton, D., et al. (2024) Dual coiled-coil protein domain mimic and drug delivery vehicle for SARS-CoV-2. Biochemical Engineering Journal. doi.org/10.1016/j.bej.2024.109261

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