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Identification of COVID Proteins Responsible for Damaging Blood Vessels to Help Develop Targeted Drugs for COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 08 Nov 2021
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Image: Illustration of Coronavirus in blood vessel (Photo courtesy of Tel Aviv University)
Image: Illustration of Coronavirus in blood vessel (Photo courtesy of Tel Aviv University)

For the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, researchers have been able to identify five of the 29 proteins which make up the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are responsible for damaging blood vessels.

The findings of the study conducted by a team of experts at Tel Aviv University (Tel Aviv, Israel) has raised hopes that the identification of these proteins will help develop targeted drugs for COVID-19 that reduce vascular damage. Two years into the global pandemic, we still do not know which of the proteins in the SARS-CoV-2 virus are the ones responsible for cases of severe vascular damage. The novel coronavirus is a relatively simple virus – it comprises a total of 29 different proteins (compared to the tens of thousands of proteins produced by the human body). For their study, the researchers used the RNA of each of the COVID-19 proteins and examined the reaction that occurred when the various RNA sequences were inserted into human blood vessel cells in the lab; they were thereby able to identify five coronavirus proteins that damage the blood vessels.

“We thoroughly examined the effect of each of the 29 proteins expressed by the virus, and were successful in identifying the five specific proteins that cause the greatest damage to endothelial cells and hence to vascular stability and function,” said Dr. Ben Maoz of TAU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Sagol School of Neuroscience. “In addition, we used a computational model developed by Prof. [Roded Sharan of the Blavatnik School of Computer Science] which allowed us to assess and identify which coronavirus proteins have the greatest effect on other tissues, without having seen them ‘in action' in the lab.”

According to Dr. Maoz, the identification of these proteins may have significant consequences in the fight against the virus. “Our research could help find targets for a drug that will be used to stop the virus’s activity, or at least minimize damage to blood vessels.”

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