UoFL Researchers Discovered Novel Technology that Shows Promise Fighting Coronavirus

The researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered a technology for their research in fighting the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research is designed around a piece of artificial genetic code/synthetic code, called an aptamer.

Also referred as artificial antibodies, or nucleic acid antibodies, these are small single-stranded bits of RNA or DNA which fold to form to complex structures. They then bind to a prespecified target like proteins with high affinity and specificity.The specificity is because of a variable region that consists of about 40 nucleotide bases, which confers both the unique structure and ligand binding capability. They are capable of selecting between targets with a difference of just one functional group.

The binding between aptamer and target is primarily because of electrostatic interactions, which, of course, depends on the variability of the sequences in different aptamers.

Aptamers bind differently to small and big molecules. While they engulf the small molecules, they typically interact only with the external surface of big molecules.

Aptamers can work under a variety of physiological conditions and can be modified to accommodate labels such as biotin or fluorescent labels. This makes aptamer production highly controlled and reproducible.

The importance of aptamer technology is the ability of aptamers to bind to viruses, cells, and tissues. This makes them suited to applications like drug discovery, diagnostic, and therapeutic applications.

The researcher, Palmer has conducted proof-of-concept experiments showing that relatively low doses of the drug are effective against the coronavirus. Even better, the treatment has already been tested in these doses on cancer patients, showing few adverse side effects.