(January 9, 2020 / JNS) Researchers led by scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have created a decoy for disease-causing viruses that may keep them from spreading in the human body, the Institute announced on Tuesday.
Two disease-causing arenaviruses called Junín and Machupo, found in rodent populations mainly in South America, can infect humans that come in contact with affected rodents. These diseases can cause the body to “bleed out,” similar to Ebola, and the only treatments available are risky and complex since they are taken from the blood of survivors.
Dr. Ron Diskin of Weizmann’s Department of Structural Biology and his team discovered that based on a rodent receptor, the creation of decoys, also called “sticky” molecules, could effectively attract to virus proteins and prevent them from spreading in the body.
Dr. Hadas Cohen-Dvashi, a member of the Diskin lab, “surgically removed” the tip of the rodent receptor to which the virus binds and engineered it onto part of an antibody, explained Weizmann. The newly resulting molecule was called “Arenacept.”
The group tested this molecule in collaboration with labs at Tel Aviv University, the University of Texas and the Institut Pasteur in Lyon, France. They found Arenacept to be highly effective at sticking strongly to the viruses before the latter could bind to the human receptors and saw activation of the immune response.
“It might even be effective against viruses from the same family that have not yet been discovered or newly emergent ones,” said Diskin. “All signs suggest Arenacept is non-toxic, and that it is also heat-resistant and stable, meaning it could be delivered to the remote areas where these diseases are endemic. And the idea of creating decoys from mammal receptors might be applied to all sorts of other diseases that cross to humans from animals.”
Yeda Research and Development, Weizmann’s technology transfer arm, has a patent for Arenacept and is working with Diskin to advance clinical research.
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