[COVID-19 UPDATE]: Decoy Receptor To Neutralize Infection; Philippines to Conduct Sputnik V Phase 3 Trial

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Scientists are rigorously researching about the new ways to reduce the ill-effects of COVID-19. In this course, several COVID-19 research reports have revealed groundbreaking ideas to fight the pandemic.

Decoy Receptors to Neutralize Coronavirus 

One such study showed that a decoy receptor could bind the virus effectively and stop the subsequent spread of infection. The study has been conducted by Erik Procko, Professor of Biochemistry, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The study has been published in the Journal Science. 

So how this works is that for a virus to infect a human cell, it must first bind to a receptor protein on the cell’s surface. Viruses utilize several techniques to bind themselves to one or more receptors. They have to overcome the plasma membrane and enter the host cell. The receptor protein acts as the ‘key’ that invades and infects the host cells by interacting with the ‘lock’. 

SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the viral strain that causes COVID-19, binds to a protein receptor ACE2. ACE2 is mainly attached to cells of lungs, arteries, intestines, heart and kidneys. Researchers believe that COVID-19 symptoms can be attributed to the virus attaching to ACE2. The research found that ACE2 is a suitable candidate for a decoy receptor. 

Professor Procko stated:

Administering a decoy based on ACE2 might not only neutralize infection but may have the additional benefit of rescuing lost ACE2 activity and directly treating aspects of COVID-19.

That being said, Procko has tested over 2000 ACE2 mutant receptors to study how the virus interacted with it. In this, he found a combination of 3 mutations that made the virus-receptor bind 50 times stronger than usual, making it a much more enticing target for the virus. 

Another benefit of a decoy receptor is that the virus has to mutate in order to evade it. This mutation usually makes it less infectious. Further research and trials will decide whether decoy receptors can be considered as a treatment to neutralize the virus. Procko said:

We are testing whether the decoy receptor is safe and stable in mice, and if successful, we then hope to show treatment of disease in animals. Hopefully, that data can facilitate a clinical trial.

The study is also exploring the possibilities of how the decoy receptor can be used to neutralize the other coronaviruses to prevent any future pandemics or outbreaks from bats to humans. 

Another Research Explores Mutation of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein

Scientists from Northwestern University, the US have discovered a new vulnerability in the spike protein of SARS Cov-2. This research is expected to pave the way for new treatments to fight the novel coronavirus. The study has been published in the journal ACS Nano. 

The scientists have discovered a positively-charged site which provides for strong bonding between the virus’ spike protein and the negatively charged host cell receptors. With this observation, the researchers have come up with a negatively-charged molecule to bind to the cleavage site. This will prevent the SARS Cov-2 virus from bonding to the host cells. Monica Olvera de la Cruz, the co-author of the research, stated,

Our work indicates that blocking this cleavage site may act as a viable prophylactic treatment that decreases the virus’ ability to infect humans.

The scientists are now preparing to work with chemists and pharmacologists to develop a drug that binds to the spike protein based on the research findings. 

Sputnik V Vaccine Update for COVID-19 

As per reports, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has announced that the Phase III trial of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will be held in Moscow and the Philippines. Phase III is a crucial stage of clinical trials because the process will also review the results of Phase II and Phase III. This will, in turn, help in reducing the scepticism against the vaccine. Moreover, the FDA’s approval will also be required to authorize the results. 

COVID-19 Vaccine

Another update has revealed that Russia plans to kick off the industrial production of Sputnik V in the next two weeks – that is by the end of August. The citizens will be the first ones to receive the vaccination. 

Earlier, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin had announced that Sputnik V became the first official COVID-19 vaccine. Putin’s daughter was also inoculated among a few other members.  


Read more: Russia Registers’ SPUTNIK V’ World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine: Putin’s Daughter Gets Vaccinated.

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