Scientists identify coronavirus invades: Researchers found the exact location where the virus does the docking.
Chinese researchers have used advanced microscopy techniques to see the exact location of human cells where the coronavirus , which has killed more than 3,000 people since the end of 2019, is coupled with data. scientists to design strategies that accurately block the entry of the microscopic parasite.
The team led by Qiang Zhou, of the West Lake University in Hangzhou, used a technique known as cryo-ME (electronic cryomicroscopy). The samples are analyzed at temperatures close to those of liquid nitrogen (close to -200ºC), which allows to observe their structures almost atom by atom.
The investigation – Scientists identify coronavirus invades
The approach was used to investigate the configuration of a specific molecular lock on the outside of cells, which is present in organs such as the lungs and the heart. This lock or receptor, designated by the acronym ECA2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2), is normally associated with the production of an important substance to regulate blood pressure (angiotensin), but its action is “hijacked” by some coronaviruses.
Among them is the cause of sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome, whose initial outbreak also occurred in China) and his close relative, the coronavirus of the current epidemic.
Detailed work of virus
It is in ECA2 that both types of parasites stick to a glycoprotein (that is, a molecule that is part protein, part sugar), called protein S, which allows viruses to fuse into the membrane of human cells and invade them. The analysis conducted by the Chinese team showed that the S proteins of the sars virus and that of the coronavirus have slight differences in their interaction with the cell lock, which could be part of the explanation for the greater ability to spread to the human population of the parasite newly discovered.
Analyzes of this type are often important for the so-called rational design of medicines, because the molecules of medicines need to have a three-dimensional structure capable of blocking the action of the corresponding structures in viruses or other diseases. It is only the beginning of that path, however.
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