This accompanying video (2.5 minutes) explains the discovery:
Stumbled across this article Thursday afternoon. I was not quite ready for what I read. This is one of those “I hope it is true, I hope it is true” articles.
Seems researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have engineered a synthetic aerosol that is capable of blocking coronaviruses from attaching to cells in the body. It is not a vaccine, but would sort of act like one once inhaled by a user. The blocking molecules named “aeronabs” by the researchers would last a long time in the body. The aerosol itself would be low cost.
From the article:
In an aerosol formulation they tested, dubbed “AeroNabs” by the researchers, these molecules could be self-administered with a nasal spray or inhaler. Used once a day, AeroNabs could provide powerful, reliable protection against SARS-CoV-2 until a vaccine becomes available. The research team is in active discussions with commercial partners to ramp up manufacturing and clinical testing of AeroNabs. If these tests are successful, the scientists aim to make AeroNabs widely available as an inexpensive, over-the-counter medication to prevent and treat COVID-19.
“Far more effective than wearable forms of personal protective equipment, we think of AeroNabs as a molecular form of PPE that could serve as an important stopgap until vaccines provide a more permanent solution to COVID-19,” said AeroNabs co-inventor Peter Walter, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. For those who cannot access or don’t respond to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, Walter added, AeroNabs could be a more permanent line of defense against COVID-19.
SARS-CoV-2 relies on its so-called spike proteins to infect cells. These spikes stud the surface of the virus and impart a crown-like appearance when viewed through an electron microscope – hence the name “coronavirus” for the viral family that includes SARS-CoV-2. Spikes, however, are more than a mere decoration – they are the essential key that allows the virus to enter our cells.
Like a retractable tool, spikes can switch from a closed, inactive state to an open, active state. When any of a virus particle’s approximately 25 spikes become active, that spike’s three “receptor-binding domains,” or RBDs, become exposed and are primed to attach to ACE2 (pronounced “ace two”), a receptor found on human cells that line the lung and airway.
In a separate set of experiments, they engineered a molecular chain that could link three nanobodies together. As noted, each spike protein has three RBDs, any of which can attach to ACE2 to grant the virus entry into the cell. The linked triple nanobody devised by the researchers ensured that if one nanobody attaches itself to an RBD, the other two would attach to the remaining RBDs. They found that this triple nanobody is 200,000 times more potent than a single nanobody alone.
And when they drew on the results of both modifications, linking three of the powerful mutated nanobodies together, the results were “off the charts,” said Walter. “It was so effective that it exceeded our ability to measure its potency.”
Be sure to go to the website and read the whole story.
With all the hyped up news we have had on vaccines we really need to cast a jaundiced eye toward any claims right now. But I got to say this looks promising.