Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017

A custom-engineered protein destroyed the deadly virus in the lab; could become a sweeping anti-viral in medicine and farming

In June 2012, a 60 year-old man with flu-like symptoms walked into a private hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Two weeks later, he died from multiple organ failure, becoming the first victim of a mysterious virus that came to be known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.


MERS particles are attached to the surface of an infected human cell.

Credit: NIAID

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified MERS as an urgent threat with no vaccine or treatment in sight. This could change thanks to a new anti-viral tool, developed by University of Toronto researchers.

Writing in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the team led by Professor Sachdev Sidhu, of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and Department of Molecular Genetics, describe how they turned ubiquitin, a staple protein in every cell, into a drug capable of thwarting MERS in cultured human cells. Because the technology can be applied to a wide range of pathogens, it could become a game-changer in anti-viral therapeutics with implications for human health and the farming industry.

"Vaccines are important for prevention, but there is a great need for anti-viral medicines to treat people who have become infected," says Dr. Wei Zhang, a postdoctoral research fellow in Sidhu's lab who did most of the work on the study.

MERS is similar to SARS, the virus that killed almost 800 people in a 2002 global epidemic. Both kill upwards of a third of people infected and, like many viruses, emerged from animals--bats and camels in the case of MERS--after mutating into a form capable of infecting human cells. Although MERS has so far been detected in 27 countries since the first case emerged in 2012, the outbreak has largely been contained within Saudi Arabia, according to the WHO.

Like many viruses, MERS works by hijacking the ubiquitin system in human cells composed of hundreds of proteins that rely on ubiquitin to keep the cells alive and well. Upon infection, viral enzymes alter ubiquitin pathways in a way that allows the virus to evade the immune defense while multiplying and destroying the host tissue as it spreads in the body.

"Viruses have evolved proteins that allow them to hijack host proteins. We can now devise strategies to prevent this from happening," says Zhang.

Zhang and colleagues engineered the human ubiquitin protein into a new form that paralyses a key MERS enzyme, stopping the virus from replicating. These synthetic ubiquitin variants act quickly, completely eliminating MERS from cells in a dish within 24 hours.

The researchers also created UbVs that blocks the Crimean-Congo virus, the cause of a haemorrhagic fever that kills about 40 per cent of those infected.

And they're designed to only target only the virus -- hopefully minimizing side effects in any future drug.

But before these engineered proteins can be developed into medicine, researchers first must find a way to deliver them into the right part of the body. For this, Zhang and Sidhu are working with Dr. Roman Melnyk, a biochemist in The Hospital for Sick Children and a world expert in protein delivery.

The team is also investigating the possibility of finding drugs that work in a similar manner but can already cross the cell membrane.

It is likely that the proteins will be tested first in plants and animals where regulatory approvals are less strict than they are for human drugs. "We are also working on an engineered ubiquitin that targets a corn virus responsible for destroying large swaths of corn fields in North America, with colleagues in Manitoba," says Zhang.

In the meantime, Zhang will continue to improve delivery of his designer proteins to human cells that target not only MERS but also other viruses. He hopes others will follow suit.

"With our tool, we can quickly generate anti-viral medicine and we hope that our method will inspire other researchers to try it out against diverse pathogens," says Zhang.

###

The study was done in collaboration with Professor Marjolein Kikkert, of Leiden University Medical Centre in The Netherlands and Professor Brian Mark at the University of Manitoba.

Jovana Drinjakovic | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Phagocytes versus killer cells - A closer look into the tumour tissue
21.10.2019 | Universität Duisburg-Essen

nachricht How intestinal cells renew themselves – the role of Klumpfuss in cell differentiation
21.10.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Solving the mystery of quantum light in thin layers

A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)

It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...

Im Focus: An ultrafast glimpse of the photochemistry of the atmosphere

Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.

The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...

Im Focus: Shaping nanoparticles for improved quantum information technology

Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.

Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...

Im Focus: Novel Material for Shipbuilding

A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.

The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...

Im Focus: Controlling superconducting regions within an exotic metal

Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

NEXUS 2020: Relationships Between Architecture and Mathematics

02.10.2019 | Event News

Optical Technologies: International Symposium „Future Optics“ in Hannover

19.09.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer LBF and BAM develop faster procedure for flame-retardant plastics

21.10.2019 | Materials Sciences

For EVs with higher range: Take greater advantage of the potential offered by lightweight construction materials

21.10.2019 | Materials Sciences

Benefit and risk: Meta-analysis draws a heterogeneous picture of drug-coated balloon angioplasty

21.10.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>