UBC scientists find ‘broadly effective, infection-halting compound’ for coronaviruses

Researchers at UBC’s Department of Life Sciences have announced an exciting discovery that shows early promise for stopping infections from different types of coronavirus.

According to scientists, that includes all strains of SARS-Cov-2 and the common cold.

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“Beyond Covid-19, there are many different types of coronaviruses that cause severe and sometimes fatal disease, and even more may emerge in the future,” said Dr. Yosef Av-Gai, UBC professor of medical infectious diseases. and senior author of the study.

In order to respond not only to the current health challenges, but also to the threats of the epidemic in the future, we are developing treatments that can be widely effective against all types of corona virus. Identifying this compound and how it works to stop viruses is an important step in that direction.

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The researchers found that the compound’s effectiveness does not directly attack the virus, but instead “activates the human cellular process that coronaviruses use to replicate.”

Since viruses cannot reproduce or replace themselves, they rely on the protein-synthesis pathway in cells to make copies of themselves. In the case of the coronavirus, viruses use a human enzyme called GSK3 beta, which is found in all human cells, the researchers said.

Dr. Tirosh Shapira, a UBC Faculty of Medicine postdoctoral fellow and first author of the study, said: “We discovered that coronaviruses hijack this human enzyme and use it to modify the protein that contains the genetic material.

“This compound blocks GSK3 beta, which in turn stops the virus from replicating and maturing proteins.”

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UBC and Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. They worked collaboratively to test the compound in cell and tissue models.

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The experiment “resulted in high efficacy against the coronavirus and showed minimal toxicity to human cells,” the researchers said.

“While these are early days, it is encouraging to see broad levels of efficacy in tissue models,” Shapira said. “We need to think about long-term applications that require long-term testing and regulatory approval before these compounds are available to patients, and how this applies to future viruses and variants.”

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