A group of researchers, led by a Mexican scientist, discovered a Spike protein’s vulnerability to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that will allow the development of a treatment against COVID-19.
ILLINOIS United States. (BBC Mundo) – Her name is Mónica Olvera de la Cruz. She’s the Mexican scientists who led the research from Northwestern University of and found that the protein also known as “S” which is responsible for allowing the virus to join human cells, has a place known as the polybasic cleavage site that has a positive charge and that creates a strong union with human cells, which have a negative charge.
From these results, the researchers focused on designing a negatively charged molecule to join the positively charged union site to produce of block that prevents the virus from entering the host cell, as mentioned in Phys.
“Our work shows that blocking this cleavage site can act as a feasible prophylactic treatment that reduces the virus’s capacity to infect human beings,” said Mónica Olvera de la Cruz, the Mexican scientist who led the research.
In this research, the mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein affected the transmission of the virus thanks to the amino acids that comprise it and are located in cleavage sites highly infectious and essential for the transfer of the virus.
Olvera de la Cruz and Baofu Qiao, assistant professor of the investigation, discovered that the polybasic cleavage site is located 10 nanometers away from the human cell receptors, a surprising discovery.
“We were not expecting to see electrostatic interactions at 10 nanometers,” said Qiao. “In physiological conditions, all electrostatic interactions do not take place in distances over 1 nanometer,” said the expert.
For her part, Olvera de la Cruz asserted that the cleavage is a fundamental factor for contagion for it seems that the virus gets attached with the furin enzyme, which is found in the lungs, “which suggest the cleavage site is crucial for the entrance of the virus into human cells.” Due to these discoveries, the scientists are planning to research the collaboration of pharmacologists from Northwestern to design a new drug that can join the Spike protein.
Olvera de la Cruz majored in Physics by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1981 and got her Ph. D. at the University of Cambridge in 1985. Born in Mexico City, the expert is focused on the development of self-assembly models of heterogenous molecules, that is, recovering them from a planned distribution.
In 1986 Dr. Olvera joined Northwestern, where she has made her most recent discovery regarding SARS-CoV-2 and where she also teaches Materials Science, Materials Engineering, and Chemistry.
She has been able to share her experience in other study centers for she has also worked in universities like Princeton and has been part of specialized agencies like the Advisory Committee for Mathematical and Physical Sciences National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Committee for Solid State Science of the National Investigation Council, as well as the Editorial Board of macromolecules of the Journal of Polymer Science B: Polymer Physics.
Her contributions to science have been significant for they have been useful for the development of new research fields of technological relevance, such as the case of the dynamics of gel electrophoresis to split molecules, as well as the self-assembly of heterogeneous molecules in complex nanostructures, one of the methods through which they found SARS-CoV-2 has a polybasic cleavage site that enables the virus to attach to the human body.
Doctor Olvera has been recognized with science scholarships, has been selected as a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2020, and was appointed distinguished professor by the National Science Foundation in 2013.
Moreover, she won the American Physical Society’s Award to Polymer Physics in 2017, the National Academy of Sciences Cozzarelli Award in 2007, and the 1990-95 Young Researcher Award of the NSF.
Besides having multiple publishing articles, Olvera de la Cruz has directed educational programs and has taught different subjects in prestigious schools.
She is currently an international scientific counselor that works with countries like Spain and Germany. Moreover, she is the director of the Center for Computation and Theory of Soft Materials and is the deputy director of the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science.
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