It is still not fully understood how the coronavirus infects human cells and uses them to multiply. Frankfurt researchers examined this in more detail – and also found possible therapeutic approaches.
Researchers at Frankfurt University in Frankfurt have discovered a possible therapeutic approach against Covid-19. In the laboratory, they analyzed how the pathogen SARS-CoV-2 changes human cells and uses them for reproduction – and how one can prevent them.
As the starting material for their study, now published in the journal “Nature”, the scientists around the virologist Prof. Dr. Sandra Ciesek smears from two infected German returnees from Wuhan. Virologists and biochemists from the university hospital constructed a cell culture model from human intestinal cells by multiplying the viruses isolated from the samples.
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Cell culture model shows how SARS-CoV-2 infects cells
The researchers were able to investigate the mechanisms by which the coronavirus infects human cells. The most important finding: 24 hours after the infection, several major changes take place in the human cell. The distribution of the proteins in the cell changes so that the cholesterol metabolism is reduced. At the same time, the production of carbohydrates and RNA (abbreviation for “ribonucleic acid”, the genetic material of the virus) for the production of proteins is being intensified.
Professor Sandra Ciesek is head of virology at Frankfurt University: her team has researched how the coronavirus multiplies in human cells. (Source: rheinmainfoto / imago images)
The researchers then tested various active substances on the cell culture and found several substances that have an antiviral effect, i.e. slow down or even stop the multiplication of the virus in the cell cultures. “Our findings provide knowledge for the development of therapy options for Covid-19, write the study authors around Ciesek, who is the director of the Institute for Medical Virology at the Frankfurt University Hospital.
Several active substances slowed the reproduction of the coronavirus
The active ingredient 2-deoxy-D-glucose, which changes the carbohydrate metabolism, was successful in tests on cell culture. The US company Moleculin Biotech announced that it plans to test a similar substance in clinical studies.
Another agent, ribavirin, was able to slow down the multiplication of the virus genome in the laboratory. This substance is already used in combination with other antiviral agents for viral diseases such as chronic hepatitis C. As reported by the Goethe University, the Canadian company Bausch Health Americas is already testing ribavirin on 50 test subjects for its effectiveness with Covid-19.
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