Miami – Based on a discovery by Puerto Rican professor Mariano García Blanco, scientists from universities in Florida and Texas, and from the National Cancer Institute of the United States, are working together in search of a medicine that blocks an enzyme that helps the COVID-19 to multiply in the human body.
Florida International University (FIU) reported Monday that the team’s goal is to discover among the existing and approved drugs in the United States which are the ones that best inhibit the enzyme Topoisomerase III-ß (TOP3B), for which they help with artificial intelligence and molecular models.
García Blanco, a specialist in biochemistry and molecular biophysics trained at Harvard and Yale, and currently a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, discovered that this enzyme is used by COVID-19 to multiply in the human body, he reported in an article published last month.
With the help of the enzyme TOP3B, COVID-19 replicates (makes copies of itself) within infected human cells, which thus becomes a “virus factory”, as published in the specialist journal BioRxvy.
Following his discovery, García-Blanco enlisted the help of the director of the FIU Institute of Biomolecular Sciences, Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh, an internationally recognized topoisomerase expert, and deputy director Prem Chapagain.
“We are approaching FIU as the place where the best inhibitors come from,” Garcia-Blanco said in remarks reproduced in the FIU statement.
Tests with medications already approved
Tse-Dinh is testing drugs already approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because what is sought is something that can be tested in patients quickly, to prevent COVID-19 from spreading throughout the world .
We are aiming to stop the TOP3B enzyme from working inside the cell, as the virus will not spread as well as it does, Tse-Dinh said.
In the opinion of the scientific team, if they find a good inhibitor, COVID-19 patients can be applied together with antiviral drugs in order to expand the recovery opportunities of those who are very serious.
Real solutions for the biggest challenge
According to Mike Heithaus, dean of the FIU College of Arts, Sciences and Education, they are looking for real and tangible solutions to the “greatest challenge of our time” and if they succeed, this new approach could be used to treat other viruses and new ones. may arise. Tse-Dinh, Chapagain and two graduate students, Ahmed Seddek and Tumpa Dasgupta, are already identifying drugs using artificial intelligence and molecular models and testing them as potential enzyme inhibitors. When they find one with potential, they are forwarded to García-Blanco and his team, who test them in cell cultures and viruses, including COVID-19. “It is a very simple story. We want to block this enzyme. That’s all. If we can do it and combine it with another antiviral treatment, we may have more opportunities to help people who are very ill,” said García-Blanco. In the midst of the pandemic, research participants are working piecemeal in their labs or some of them from home to achieve the goal. “We feel the urgency, but we have to do things scientifically,” said Tse-Dinh. Something similar in Brazil
In Brazil, a group of researchers found that Atazanavir, a drug used to treat AIDS patients, is effective in inhibiting the viral replication of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Studies by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), the largest medical research center in Latin America and linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, found that Atazanavir is capable of slowing down the multiplication of the virus and that it also reduces the inflammatory process in the lungs. of patients who get it. The drug “reduced the production of proteins that are linked to the inflammatory process in the lungs and, therefore, prevented the worsening of the clinical picture generated by the disease,” Fiocruz said in a statement.