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COVID-19: UBC researchers discover ‘weak spot’ in all key variables – Vancouver Sun

A medical breakthrough is like finding a ‘master switch’ that could lead to effective treatments

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a “weak spot” in all key variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, a breakthrough that could lead to globally effective treatments.

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In a study published Thursday in Nature CommunicationsThe researchers used a process called cryo-electron microscopy.

This new technology allows researchers to rapidly freeze proteins at the atomic level so they can take hundreds of thousands of snapshots – like X-rays – of individual proteins.

“Next, we can computationally integrate it into a 3D image to create the atomic landscape of what the protein looks like,” said Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

“So, in this particular case, what we’re reporting is one of many examples where we use technology to be literally monitors at the site of contact between the antibody and the spike protein.”

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And what they found was a fragment of an antibody capable of binding to this site and neutralizing each key variant.

It is very powerful and allows us to view the interactions in atomic detail. And of course, this paves the way for the development of treatments in the future.”

Subramaniam said SARS-CoV-2 is A highly adaptable virus that has evolved to evade most existing antibody treatments, and what their study does is reveal a vulnerability that is largely unchanged across variants that can be neutralized by a portion of the antibody.

“This is a highly adaptable virus that has evolved to evade most existing antibody therapies, as well as much of the immunity conferred by vaccines and natural infections,” he said, adding that finding the The location of the vulnerabilities that didn’t change much across all of these variables was interesting.

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The antibodies bind to the virus in a very specific way, like when a key gets into a lock. But when the virus mutates, the key no longer fits… We were looking for master keys. “

The ‘master switch’ identified in this new research is the VH Ab6 antibody fragment, which has been shown to be effective against Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Epsilon and Omicron variants. The fragment neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 by attaching to the epitope on the spike protein and preventing the virus from entering human cells.

Subramaniam said it’s too early to say if this will lead to a single vaccine for all mutations, but what they have discovered is the ability to focus and determine which part of the virus is important. This can then be used by drug companies to find a cure.

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“And that’s where we focus our efforts because, look, it has survived. It has survived major spikes across the entire pandemic… So I think it gives us a zero-sum lesson which is basically let’s find this hot spot to get rid of our efforts to get the best antibodies that make an impact Prevent entry of the virus.”

The discovery is a collaboration between Subramaniam’s team at UBC and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, led by Dr. Mitko Dimitrov and Wei Lee.

ticrawford@postmedia.com


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