Boston: Scientists have decoded the chain of molecular responses of human lung cells to infection with the new coronavirus, a breakthrough that may aid in the identification of clinically approved drugs that can be reused for COVID-19 treatment.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Cell, evaluated modified cells from the air sacs of human lungs using precise mass spectrometry technology that can characterize the molecules present in samples.
Based on the analysis, scientists at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) in the USA identified proteins and molecule pathways in lung cells whose levels change after infection with the SARS-CoV virus. 2.
The researchers believe the findings provide insights into the pathology of the disease and new therapeutic targets to block COVID-19.
They found that a crucial type of protein modification called “phosphorylation” becomes aberrant in these infected lung cells.
According to the study, protein phosphorylation plays an important role in regulating the function of proteins within the cells of an organism.
He noted that both protein abundance and protein phosphorylation are typically highly controlled processes in healthy cells.
However, the scientists found that SARS-CoV-2 messes up lung cells, causing abnormal changes in the amounts of proteins and the frequency of protein phosphorylation within these cells.
These abnormal changes, the scientists said, help the virus multiply, eventually destroying cells and resulting in widespread lung injury.
Following infection, the researchers said the coronavirus rapidly begins to exploit the cell’s core resources, which would otherwise be required for normal cell growth and function.
“The virus uses these resources to proliferate while evading attack by the body’s immune system. In this way, new viruses are formed that subsequently leave the exhausted and brutally damaged lung cell, leaving it self-destructive,” said Andrew Emili, co-author of the study. by BUSM.
“These new viruses then infect other cells, where the same cycle is repeated,” Emili explained.
In the study, scientists examined lung alveolar cells one to 24 hours after infection with SARS-CoV-2 to understand what changes occur in these cells immediately, one, three and six hours after infection with the SARS-CoV-2. – and what changes occur after, 24 hours after infection.
“Our results showed that, compared to normal / uninfected lung cells, SARS-CoV-2 infected lung cells showed dramatic changes in the abundance of thousands of proteins and phosphorylation events,” said Darrell Kotton, study co-author. and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at BUSM.
“Furthermore, our data also showed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus induces a significant number of these changes as early as one hour after infection and lays the groundwork for a complete sequestration of the host’s lung cells,” added Elke Muhlberger , another co-author of the study.
The researchers also identified at least 18 clinically approved pre-existing drugs that were originally developed for other medical conditions that could be reused for use in COVID-19 therapy.
They believe that further studies may shed light on the potential of these drugs to block the proliferation of the new coronavirus in human lung cells.