Science

Researchers develop new protein that neutralises Covid-19 in tiny human kidney

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 02, 2021

The modified protein intercepts the S spike of the coronavirus and fools it into binding with it rather than the real ACE2 receptor in cell membranes

Researchers at Northwestern Medicine have developed a new protein that can trick the Covid-19 infection and neutralise it in a human kidney organoid, a miniature organ made from stem cells in the lab.

The researchers said in their study that the protein is a variant of the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 or ACE2, the receptor cells that the coronavirus uses to make its entry into the human body.

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The modified protein intercepts the S spike of the coronavirus and fools it into binding with it rather than the real ACE2 receptor in cell membranes.

Lead study author Dr Daniel Batlle, professor of medicine at Northwestern University and Northwestern Medicine physician, said: “The idea was to administer our protein to intercept the coronavirus before it gets to the natural receptor in the cell membranes.”

He added: “To make it more efficacious, we modified the ACE2 protein to extend its duration of action from hours to days. That feature will be critical for patient use.”

“While widespread vaccination is the best way to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, there will always be a need for therapies for prevention and treatment of people who were not vaccinated or for whom the vaccine was not fully effective,” said Batlle, professor of Nephrology and Hypertension at Feinberg.

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The protein was tested in the human kidney organoid because rodents are resistant to infection by the coronavirus.

The researchers have bioengineered the novel ACE2 variants licensed to Northwestern University which they believe can be adapted for Covid-19 therapy. The therapy can be carried out by intercepting the coronavirus and preventing it from attaching to the natural ACE2 receptor in the membrane of the cell.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Published on February 02, 2021

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