Pioneering a ‘staple’ approach for treating COVID-19

first_imgStrategies to bar the coronavirus (COVID-19) from entering cells — thereby preventing infection and averting transmission of the virus — are among the most promising treatment approaches to COVID-19. Everything from antibodies to specially made snippets of RNA are being mustered in the effort to develop a safe and effective coronavirus blocker.An approach notable for its ingenuity — and the fact that it has proven successful in other types of viruses — has been pioneered by Loren Walensky a pediatric oncologist and chemical biologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, and his colleagues. Using what are known as stapled peptides, the approach seeks to jam the “landing gear” that the virus uses to fuse to the cells of the human respiratory system.The new virus consists of a short coil of RNA wrapped in a protein envelope that includes stalk-like projections resembling points on a crown. A key surface protein “contains a series of coiled sections known as alpha helices,” Walensky said. “The virus deploys three of these helices to overlap with three others to form a six-helix bundle that fuses with the human cell membrane, allowing the virus to penetrate and infect the cell.“Our approach is to make a ‘decoy’ helix that slips between the two groups of helices to prevent the bundle from assembling,” he said.The decoy consists of a stapled peptide. Peptides are short chains of amino acids — not long enough to be full-fledged proteins — but can interact with proteins to modulate a variety of cellular functions.“One advantage of using peptides is that they are nature’s solution to targeting proteins,” Walensky said.Early attempts to use natural peptides as therapies faced obstacles because the peptides can lose their shape and get degraded rapidly once injected into the body.A chemistry-based solution was to reinforce peptides with hydrocarbon “staples.” In 2010, Walensky and his associates showed that a stapled peptide could effectively target the fusion apparatus used by HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS.Because many other viral families — including those of the RSV, SARS, MERS, and Ebola viruses, as well as the novel coronavirus — use the same fusion mechanism, there are valid reasons for believing this approach will work against them as well.“As we previously demonstrated for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), our newly designed stapled peptides targeting the novel coronavirus’ helical bundle may be effective both as a way to prevent infection as well as to block the spread of infection to the lungs in people with established infection,” Walensky said.Experiments are currently underway to test the Walensky lab’s peptides against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.last_img read more

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Tamshui line opens

first_imgTAIPEI Mass Rapid Transit System formally opened its Tamshui heavy metro line on March 28. Running northwest from Taiwan Railway Administration’s Main Station in the heart of the capital to the suburban town of Tamshui, the line largely follows the alignment of a former narrow-gauge branch. The first contracts for the Red line were awarded in 1987, with the aim of having trains running by the end of 1993. The first cars arrived in November 1992, and test running was formally inaugurated on September 27 1994.Revenue services began immediately after the 09.30 opening ceremony on March 28, although this was marred by protests about the NT$80 metro fare being higher than the NT$65 bus fare. At the opening ceremony, Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian announced that the MRT’s Chungho line would open at the end of 1998, and the Nankang line by 2000. olast_img read more

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Life DemoWave buoy anchors off Spain

first_imgA wave energy generation buoy of the Life DemoWave project has been anchored at the experimental site off Punta Langosteira in northwestern Spanish region of Galicia.The 25kW prototype of the wave generation buoy was anchored on August 30, 2018, making the outer part of the breakwater in Langosteira a test bed for feasibility demonstration of an 11-ton wave energy device.Spanish marine operator Advanced Crew and Ship Management (ACSM) was in charge of the execution of the system’s anchoring operation together with its three auxiliary buoys.Aside from ACSM, the companies participating in the DemoWave consortium also include Quantum Innovative, Hercules Control, and Josmar Group, with the collaboration of the University of Vigo and CETMAR.Within the framework of the EU-backed Life DemoWave project, which has a total budget of €1.8 million, the test buoy named Gelula will seek to demonstrate the viability of using wave energy converters for power production, as well as showcase the environmental benefits that go along with using such systems.Under the project, for which the EU contributed €1 million through the LIFE program, another buoy with similar characteristics, that of an oscillating water column type of wave energy device, is planned for deployment at the site.last_img read more

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