Scientists discover stone to defeat viral scissors of COVID-19

  • Scientists discover stone to defeat viral scissors of COVID-19
  • Reference: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2223-y
  • A team of scientists from China,USA and Australia have identified 6 lead compounds with potential activity against main protein scissor of COVID19. COVID-19 similar to other viruses produces several proteins at a stretch like a thread and later cuts them using protein scissors to smaller fragments like strings. These viral proteins can do their function properly only after they are cut from the thread. This strategy decreases the amount of information virus needs to store inside its compact size for infecting its host. One of the main scissor of COVID-19 is Mpro (Main Protease). This scissor is responsible for generation of the proteins necessary for viral replication. Scientists involved in this study first obtained the molecular photo of Mpro using a technique called X-ray crystallography. Then using this photo and computer-aided design they identified a new molecule N3, capable of preventing function of Mpro. This team of researchers also checked Mpro against more than 10,000 compounds (Existing drugs, pharmacologically active compounds and other drugs currently under clinical trials) and found that six compounds were capable of inhibiting it. Most notable being, Ebselen. Ebselen is currently being tested for its ability to treat Bipolar disorders and Hearing loss, and has been shown to have very low toxicity. Both Ebselen and N3 showed antiviral activity in this study when tested in African green monkey kidney cells. Since none of the human proteins is significantly similar to Mpro, drugs discovered from this study take us few steps closer towards targeted therapy against COVID-19.
  • Summary by: Tanaya Roychowdhury, Graduate student at Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, India

Photo credit: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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