A new experimental therapy prevents the coronavirus from replicating
in photo: Sars – Cov – 2 coronavirus particles (orange) infect tissues / NIAID

Treating coronavirus infection by preventing the virus from replicating: this is the goal of an international research team led by scientists from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) of Griffith University, Australia, which has developed a new experimental action therapy direct for the treatment of Covid-19.

The new antiviral therapy

The antiviral approach leverages the small interfering RNA (siRNA), a class of double-stranded ribonucleic acid molecules that the researchers designed to target highly conserved regions of the Sars-Cov-2 virus. The treatment, which has been shown to be 99.9% effective in reducing viral load in animal models, directly attacks the genome of the virus, blocking replication. With the potential advantage of not only working against any new variant of Sars-Cov-2 but also against related coronaviruses, such as Sars and Mers. If the development translates into a therapy for humans, then we will have a treatment option for all betacoronaviruses that may emerge in the future.

In addition to identifying siRNAs that can effectively inhibit viral replication, the research team also developed a new system for transporting siRNAs into the bloodstream. “We have simultaneously developed and selected two new formulations of lipid nanoparticles for the release of these siRNAs in the lungs, an organ that suffers great damage during Sars-Cov-2 infectionExplain the researchers in a new study published in the journal Molecular Therapy with whom they provided details of their work.

The antigen therapy developed by Griffith University's Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ).  Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) carry small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) into the infected cell capable of inhibiting viral replication by Sars – Cov – 2 / Molecular Biology
in photo: The antigen therapy developed by Griffith University’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ). Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) carry small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) into the infected cell capable of inhibiting viral replication by Sars – Cov – 2 / Molecular Biology

The therapy thus developed was tested in mice infected with Sars-Cov-2, demonstrating a “robust repression of the virus in the lungsi ”and a marked advantage in terms of survival with no apparent side effects. “The nanoparticles can reach a wide range of lung cells and silential viral genes Nigel McMillan of Griffith University’s Covid-19 antiviral research team and corresponding co-author of the study said. Surprisingly, no traces of the virus were detected in the lungs in the treated mice”.

The prospect of Covid-19 treatment

Results that, overall, suggest how siRNA-containing nanoparticle formulations can be developed as a therapy to treat Covid-19 patients, as well as used for future coronavirus infections by directly targeting the viral genome. “We have also shown that these nanoparticles are stable at 4 ° C for 12 months and at room temperature for more than a month – added study co-author Kevin Morris of the City of Hope, a US center for cancer research and treatment that collaborated in the development of the new antiviral therapy. This means that they could also be used in settings with few resources to treat infected patients”.

The research is part of ten Australian Government funded projects as part of a program whose most promising developments will receive funding for Phase I clinical trials. “If the approach is among those selected, we certainly expect great interestMcMillan concluded. However, it will take months or perhaps years before treatment is available. “Even if Sars-Cov-2 goes away, the coronavirus will not go away. They have existed for 3,000 years, and a therapy directed against related viruses, including those that have not yet infected humans, could prove very useful in the future.”.

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