Scientists said that computer-generated synthetic antiviral proteins have been shown to protect human cells developed in the laboratory of coronoviruses from SARS-CoV-2.
In experiments, the major antiviral candidate, named LCB1, neutralized antibodies to the most well-known SARS-CoV-2 in its protective functions, according to findings published in the journal Science.
Researchers at the University of Washington in the US noted that LCB1 is currently being evaluated in rodents.
Coronaviruses consist of so-called spike proteins, which latch onto human cells to be able to break down and infect the virus, he said.
According to the researchers, the development of drugs that interfere with this insertion mechanism can lead to the treatment or even prevention of infection.
They used computers to develop new proteins that bind tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and inhibit it from infected cells.
More than two million candidate spike-binding proteins were designed on computers. He said more than 118,000 were produced and tested in the laboratory.
“Although extensive clinical trials are still required, we believe that the best of these computer-generated antivirals is quite promising,” said lead author Loxing Cao, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington.
“They appear to block the least monoclonal antibodies as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection, but are much easier to produce and are far more stable, possibly eliminating the need for refrigeration,” Cao he said.
The researchers stated that they created antiviral proteins through two methods.
First, a segment of the ACE2 receptor, which SARS-CoV-2 naturally binds to the surface of human cells, was incorporated into a series of small protein scaffolds.
Second, the fully synthetic protein was designed from scratch.
The latter method produced the most potent antivirals, including LCB1, which is about six times more potent on a per mass basis than the most effective monoclonal antibodies reported so far.
David Baker, senior author of biochemistry at the UW School of Medicine, stated, “Our success in designing high-affinity antiviral proteins from scratch is evidence that computational protein design can be used to create promising drug candidates is.”
To confirm that the new antiviral proteins were associated with coronovirus spike proteins, the team collected snapshots of the two molecules interacting using cryo-electron microscopy.