Here’s how scientists are trying to trick the coronavirus

ace2 receptors coronavirus decoy
Photo via NIH Image Gallery/Flickr (Public Domain)

A study published in the journal Science indicates that using engineered or “decoy” ACE2 cells could become a preventative treatment for COVID-19. 

Decoy cells have already been used as a treatment for inflammatory and immune-related conditions, but use as an antiviral treatment is relatively new. It is likely that such a treatment would be administered via nasal mist or injection, but the treatment must meet very specific criteria to be considered viable. It cannot interrupt natural bodily processes, for example. ACE2 receptors help control blood volume and keep blood pressure low. 

In this study co-authored by Erik Procko, an assistant biochemistry professor at the University of Illinois, less than 1% of the cell’s genetic code has been modified to create the version of ACE2 being used in this study, which is slated to move into animal studies for its next step. Another version of ACE2 with ties to Apeiron Biologics is already in clinical trials, although it has not been modified as much as the version of ACE2 being looked at in this study. 

The mechanics of the process in which ACE2 becomes effective at inhibiting the coronavirus is fairly straightforward. ACE2 is targeted by the coronavirus, and when the viral particle binds with it, it is reproduced. These decoy cells could potentially trap coronavirus and effectively latch on, keeping it from attaching to naturally occurring ACE2 cells which would then allow it to reproduce within the body. 

This particular version of the ACE2 cell being used as a coronavirus inhibitor has not yet made it to human trials. 

Read more on potential coronavirus treatments:

Sources: Livescience, Science, The University of Illinois 

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