Breakthrough: Indian Scientists Develop Novel Mechanism To Inactivate Coronavirus

New Delhi: A new class of synthetic peptides has been developed by Indian researchers that can block the entry of SARS-CoV-2 virus into body cells and clump the virus particles together, thereby reducing their ability to spread infection.

This novel approach provides an alternative mechanism to render viruses like SARS-CoV-2 inactive, promising a new class of peptides as antivirals, according to a statement issued by Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

The continuous emergence of new strains of coronavirus has reduced protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines, and hence new approaches to prevent infection are the need of the hour.

Protein-protein interaction, which is often like that of a lock and key, can be hampered by synthetic peptide that mimics, competes with, and prevents the ‘key’ from binding to the ‘lock’, or vice-versa. Scientists at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in collaboration with researchers from CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh, exploited this approach to design peptides which can bind to and block the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This binding was further characterised extensively by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and other biophysical methods.

The research has been supported under the COVID-19 IRPHA call of SERB Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body of Department of Science and Technology (DST).

The peptide was tested for toxicity in mammalian cells and found it to be safe.

The research, carried out by 14 scientists from the two institutions, and supported by Science and Engineering Research Board of the Department of Science and Technology, has been published in Nature Chemical Biology, a peer reviewed journal.

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