Scientists from Bristol have made what they have described as a ‘game-changing’ discovery in the fight against coronavirus.
They said that in the short-term, their discovery could lead to better treatment of Covid-19, and in the longer term, it could mean they are able to stop the virus being infectious altogether and ‘stop the virus in its tracks’.
The team at the University of Bristol have released their findings in the journal Science, and describe the study that they undertook as ‘ground-breaking’.
The team was headed by Prof Christiane Schaffitzel from Bristol’s School of Biochemistry, and Prof Imre Berger from the Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology – effectively teaming up biochemists with another team that use powerful microscopes that freeze the virus and enable it to be looked at in tiny detail.
The team discovered that buried deep within the spikes that the SARS CoV-2 protein uses to latch onto the inside of people’s bodies was a small molecule called linoleic acid.
This fatty acid is what the virus uses to bind itself together and spread – and the team have described this discovery as important because it now means there is a way to disrupt that binding fat, and potentially render the virus not infectious.
The discovery of this fatty acid is described as a ‘druggable pocket’ by scientists – a way in for drugs to take on the virus and disarm it.
“Our discovery of a druggable pocket within the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein could lead to new anti-viral drugs to shut down and eliminate the virus before it entered human cells, stopping it firmly in its tracks,” she added.
The discovery of the ‘druggable pockets’ is the second major breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus Covid-19 involving the University of Bristol. Last month, a team from Bristol were part of a global study that proved the use of a cheap £5 drug cut death rates for Covid-19 patients by a fifth.
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