Has Polish Prof found coronavirus cure? Early indications suggest treatment may be in sight
Polish scientists have analysed an enzyme that could become a key to creating a cure against COVID-19.
The team by professor Marcin Drąg from the Wrocław University of Technology said that the SARS-CoV-2 Mpro protease enzyme catalyses the breakdown of proteins in the virus.
Professor Drąg told PAP: "It enables it to survive. If this enzyme is inhibited, the virus dies instantly.
"If we develop a drug that would inhibit this enzyme, we practically kill the virus.
“We know that from the previous coronavirus epidemic – SARS. If we treat this enzyme as a lock, we've made the key to it."
Although the enzyme itself was already identified, there were millions of combinations to a possible ‘key’ to it.
The scientists say they have now “found one key that matches the enzyme.”
This ‘key’ is the information which amino acids the enzyme can bind to in different positions.
Professor Drąg said: "We can tell if these are large, small, hydrophobic or alkaline amino acids. We can also map the most important parts of the enzyme and match it with drugs that are already on the market.”
Because the enzyme is unique in that it virtually doesn’t occur in humans, it is hoped that drugs working against it will only harm the virus and will be less toxic to the carrier.
The discovery was made after scientists at the University of Lübeck in Germany sent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 protease to Wrocław in February this year.
Professor Drąg and his team have been analysing it ever since.
He said: "We've been working with Professor Rolf Hilgenfeld's group from Lübeck University in Germany for several years. I published a paper with him during the Zika virus epidemic, and recently a publication about the West Nile dengue virus. Prof. Hilgenfeld had a huge impact on the extinction of the previous SARS epidemic.”
During the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic, the German scientist presented a three-dimensional structure of the SARS virus protease and its first inhibitor. Since the current coronavirus’ protease is very similar, this experience helped the scientists this time.
In the current research, Professor Drąg combines chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology to examine the enzymes responsible and creates selective chemical tools to detect cancer among others.
In standard tests, only four to five enzymes can be monitored at one time. The technology developed in Wrocław and verified in the United States makes it possible to look into even several dozen.
The findings have now been published online for companies and other institutions to work on pharmaceuticals and diagnostics tests.