NEW YORK: As the world waits eagerly for an effective vaccine against the Covid-19 virus, researchers are also focusing on better understanding of how the virus attacks the body in the quest for other means of stopping its devastating impact.
The key to one possibility — blocking a protein that enables the virus to turn the immune system against healthy cells — has been identified in a recent study by a team of Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Based on their findings published in the journal 'Blood', the researchers believe that inhibiting the protein known as Factor D will also curtail the potentially deadly inflammatory reactions that many patients have to the virus.
Scientists already know that spike proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — making the pathogen look like the spiny ball from a medieval mace — are the means by which it attaches to cells targeted for infection.
To do this the spikes first grab hold of heparan sulfate, a large, complex sugar molecule found on the surface of cells in the lungs, blood vessels and smooth muscle making up most organs.
Facilitated by its initial binding with heparan sulfate, SARS-CoV-2 then uses another cell-surface component, the protein known as angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), as its doorway into the attacked cell. The Johns Hopkins medicine team discovered that when SARS-CoV-2 ties up heparan sulfate, it prevents Factor H from using the sugar molecule to bind with cells. (IANS)