Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that can neutralize viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.
A new technology aims to determine which people should be first given the COVID-19 vaccine before the rest of the population to effectively stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They analyzed SARS-CoV-2 Spike at near-atomic resolution and identified its molecular composition.
Scientists believe they may have discovered a new way to try and combat Covid-19 virus.
The tool is a fluorescent nanoparticle probe that uses the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 to bind to cells and trigger the process that pulls the virus into the cell. The study noted that the antibodies were potent inhibitors of the quantum dot probes as well, preventing them from binding to ACE2 and entering human cells.
In this ground-breaking study, the team headed by Professor Christiane Schaffitzel from Bristol's School of Biochemistry and Professor 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.
The analysis of the spike revealed that a small molecule- a fatty acid known as linoleic acid (LA)-was buried in a custom-made pocket within the structure. LA is a free fatty acid, which is indispensable for many cellular functions. However, the human body can not produce LA on its own and acquires it by absorption from the daily diet.
The study led by the University of Bristol found that the virus's spike protein-which it uses to access cells-has a region with an essential molecule called linoleic acid (LA ) embedded into it, which can be drugged into submission, and potentially aid in defeating the pandemic itself.
Inflammation plays a major role in the development of neurodegenerative disease. LA is also needed to maintain cell membranes in the lungs so that we can breathe properly.
Prof Berger described the research team as "truly puzzled" by the discovery and its implications. "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", he explained. These pathologies are all observed in patients suffering from severe COVID-19. The team are now taking steps to initiate a clinical trial evaluating the novel oral therapeutic in COVID-19 patients. "The question now is how to turn this new knowledge against the virus itself and defeat the pandemic", he quipped.
The team have found hope from previous studies on the rhinovirus, which is a virus that causes the common cold.
Although Brazil stands on the third spot of countries with the highest coronavirus infections after the U.S. and India, the researchers found that in some states such as Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, which experienced massive dengue fever outbreaks last year and earlier this year, have taken longer to reach the same level of community transmission compared to states Maranhão and Amapá, which had fewer dengue fever cases.
This study was supported by funding from by the National Institutes of Health (grants AI127521, GM120554 and GM124141), Fondren Foundation, Welch Foundation (grant F-1808), National Science Foundation (grant 1453358), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Bacterial and Viral Bioinformatics Resource Center award (contract number 75N93019C00076), U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) iSENTRY Friend or Foe program award (contract number HR0011937807), Houston Methodist Infectious Diseases Research Fund, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston Methodist Research Institute and a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Individual Investigator Research Award to UT Austin's Ilya Finkelstein.