Indian-American scientist his team find a breakthrough discovery in treating COVID-19


A group of researchers led by an Indian American scientist has recently discovered a key finding of the coronavirus, that could be a game-changer in treating the virus.

Dr. Yogesh Gupta, and his team from the University of Texas Health Science Center, have discovered that magnesium, calcium, and manganese ions in the body form “a bridge” that helps the virus enter a cell undetected. The findings could pave the way for antiviral drugs that counter the virus.

This study was published in ‘Nature Communications’’.

“Last year, my team and I discovered the mechanism by which the SARS-CoV-2 modifies its messenger RNA (or mRNA) and evades immune system resistance. Now, we have discovered that different metal ions help a process called RNA capping to ensure undetected growth in a host’s body. This is an important breakthrough in our understanding of the mutating virus,” said Dr Gupta.

Proteins in our cells carry out processes necessary for body functions — mRNA carries these instructions. RNA capping, meanwhile, is essential for the efficient production of viral proteins and protection of the virus’s RNA from the host’s immune response.

“We found metal ions were the real culprits helping the virus disguise itself and appear to the immune mechanism that it is its own. These ions form a bridge between the viral mRNA and the virus’s two proteins (non-structural protein (nsp)16 and nsp10),” Gupta explained. Metal ions are found in blood, bones and tissue in the body.

“The virus then uses its own proteins to modify its mRNA cap so that it mimics the cellular mRNA. Consequently, the immune system can’t recognize it. After the RNA cap modification, the nsp16-nsp10 protein complex stretches itself, in which ion binding helps.”

While the search for a Covid-19 drug is on, prescribed options have, so far, relied on medicines for other diseases repurposed for novel coronavirus patients.

Knowing the full mechanism of how a virus enters the body and protects itself opens up an understanding of how to target its survival mechanisms and the possibility of antivirals specifically targeted at SARS-CoV-2.

“With our new study, we have a much better understanding of exactly how the virus employs RNA cap modification for its survival,” Gupta said.

“Since we now have atomic-level details of this mechanism, it will help us develop new drug candidates (anti-virals) capable of blocking this camouflage activity by targeting the ion binding process.”

The more we know about the virus, the better we are placed in finding a permanent cure. This finding could pave the way for others to explore the intricacies of how the virus operates and stop its spread within our body before its spreads wide.