Toward New Antiviral Drugs

Research pinpoints mechanism and possible new therapies against multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants, other coronaviruses

image of coronaviruses close up
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Scientists have taken an important step forward in understanding the features within a human cell that allow for coronavirus infections.

Investigators at Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Yale School of Medicine have identified a critical mechanism in human and other animal cells that regulates the expression of the ACE2 receptor, the entry point used by SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses to enter cells and cause infections in humans and other animals.

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The work, published March 9 in Nature Genetics, can inform new therapeutic approaches that could make often-attacked cells, such as lung and airway epithelial cells, impervious to infection by a range of SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as other coronaviruses.

The findings, the researchers say, suggest that drugs that inhibit this mechanism and block the expression of this receptor could be used to effectively shut the door to viruses that use it as their gateway. Such drugs could provide broad protection against viral infections caused by the rapidly mutating SARS-CoV-2, which have rendered many current therapies powerless.