New research has shed light on a crucial biological mechanism that may have helped the coronavirus to infect humans and spread rapidly around the world.
A detailed analysis of the virus’s structure shows that the club-like “spikes” that it uses to establish infections latch on to human cells about four times more strongly than those on the related Sars coronavirus, which killed hundreds of people in a 2002 epidemic.
The finding suggests that coronavirus particles that are inhaled through the nose or mouth have a high chance of attaching to cells in the upper respiratory tract, meaning that relatively few are needed for an infection to gain a foothold.
Scientists at the University of Minnesota used X-ray crystallography to create an atomic-scale 3D map of the virus’s spike protein and its corresponding partner on human cells, known as the ACE-2 receptor.
When the virus encounters a human cell, the spike proteins on its surface stick to ACE-2 receptors, if the cell possess them, and allow the virus to gain access and replicate.
“The 3D structure shows that compared to the virus that caused the 2002-2003 Sars outbreak, the new coronavirus has evolved new strategies to bind to its human receptor, resulting in tighter binding,” said Dr Fang Li, who led the US team. “The tight binding to the human receptor can help the virus infect human cells and spread among humans.”
The map of the virus will now be used by scientists to search for potential drugs that can neutralise the virus before replication has ramped up and the infection has taken hold. “If a new antibody drug can bind to those sites on the virus more strongly and frequently than the receptor, it will block the virus out of cells, making it a potentially effective treatment for viral infections,” Li said. The same sites can be used to shape work on vaccines to prevent future infections, he added.
Image Credit: Associated Press
News This Week
A new type of ultra-efficient, nano-thin material could advance self-powered electronics, wearable technologies and even deliver pacemakers powered by heart beats. The flexible and printable piezoelectric material, which can convert mechanical pressure into electrical energy, [...]
For about one in 13 children in the U.S., normally harmless foodstuffs such as milk, eggs and peanuts can send the body's natural defenses into overdrive. Symptoms of food allergies can vary widely, but at [...]
Frank Boehm (Nanoapps Medical Inc. Founder) has contributed to 'Platelet-Rich Plasma Applications for Achilles Tendon Repair: A Bridge between Biology and Surgery', published by International Journal of Molecular Sciences/ MDP. Abstract: Achilles tendon ruptures [...]
Using both mouse and human brain tissue, researchers at Yale School of Medicine have discovered that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect the central nervous system and have begun to unravel some of the virus’s effects on [...]
A deep learning algorithm developed at MIT has discovered new antibiotics that can treat drug-resistant diseases by killing 35 powerful bacteria. The pathogens that the halicin antibiotic has targetted include Acinetobacter baumannii, which was nicknamed [...]
In our transforming world, digital technology has the critical mass to push our frontiers and release unlimited potential. As the wave of digital transformation soars high, improving our lives, industries and economies, we must not [...]
Scientists Discover a Way to Control the Immune System’s “Natural Killer” Cells With “Invisible” Stem Cells
UC San Francisco scientists have discovered a new way to control the immune system’s “natural killer” (NK) cells, a finding with implications for novel cell therapies and tissue implants that can evade immune rejection. The [...]
A team led by scientists at Georgia State University simulates the precise transition between the processes of DNA synthesis and proofreading DNA replication is one of the most important processes in biology, responsible for ensuring [...]
Everybody loves Neandertals, those big-brained brutes we supposedly outcompeted and ultimately replaced using our sharp tongues and quick, delicate minds. But did we really, though? Is it mathematically possible that we could yet be them, [...]
From a small discovery to producing at scale, photojournalist David Levene documents the groundbreaking work of the scientists of Oxford University during the development of a vaccine which is now poised for approval by medicines regulators. [...]
Optical tweezers are a rapidly growing technology, and have opened up a wide variety of research applications in recent years. The devices operate by trapping particles at the focal points of tightly focused laser beams, [...]
In what is believed to be a medical first, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) have enabled a quadriplegic man to control a pair of prosthetic [...]