FResearchers at the University of Frankfurt have investigated in the laboratory how the new corona virus converts body cells for its purposes. They also found possible starting points for therapies. According to the university, an American company is preparing an active ingredient for a clinical trial based on the Frankfurt results. A Canadian company is starting clinical tests with another substance.
The researchers led by Sandra Ciesek, Christian Münch and Jindrich Cinatl used viruses for their work, which they obtained from smears from two infected returnees from Wuhan. They grew the pathogens in the laboratory on human intestinal cells. To identify how the virus changes the host cell, they used a special form of mass spectrometry. This enables the amount and production rate of thousands of proteins in the cell to be determined.
The virus stimulates protein production
The infection was not shown to cause the body cell to significantly reduce the production of its own proteins in favor of viral proteins. In this regard, the Sars Corona Virus 2 appears to be different from other viruses. Instead, the pathogen stimulates protein production overall. Therefore, virus multiplication with protein synthesis inhibitors can be slowed down in laboratory tests.
24 hours after the infection, the protein distribution in the cell changes significantly: the cholesterol metabolism is reduced, the production of carbohydrates and RNA for protein production are ramped up. Using substances that inhibit these processes, the researchers were able to stop the virus from multiplying in the cell cultures. A substance that inhibits the production of new building blocks for the virus genome had a similar effect.
Ribavirin drug has an effect in the laboratory
Compounds that have been successfully tested include 2-deoxy-D-glucose, a substance that interferes with carbohydrate metabolism. The American company Moleculin Biotech is preparing a similar active ingredient for clinical studies. The genome synthesis of the virus could be disrupted with ribavirin. This active ingredient is already used for the therapy of viral diseases, including against hepatitis C. According to Goethe University, the Canadian company Bausch Health Americas is testing 50 test persons to see whether the remedy also helps against Covid-19.
Jindrich Cinatl from the Institute of Medical Virology sees the use of substances that are components of already approved drugs as “a great opportunity to fight the virus. Such agents are already well characterized and we know how patients tolerate them. ”
Links to the studies: