Recently, a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US created a nasal spray that could block the coronavirus from entering the lungs and causing infection.
- Researchers have created thin, thread-like strands of molecules called supramolecular filaments capable of blocking the virus in its tracks.
- The key to this approach is the way that the filaments carry a receptor called angiotensin converting enzyme-2, or ACE2.
- ACE2 provides the entry point for the coronavirus to hook into and infect a wide range of human cells.
- The team’s newly developed filament, called fACE2, serves as a decoy binding site for the virus, with each filament offering several receptors for the COVID-19 spike protein to attach to, and silences ACE2’s biological functions to avoid potential side effects.
What is ACE2?
- It is a protein on the surface of many cell types and tissues including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract.
- It is an enzyme that generates small proteins – by cutting up the larger protein angiotensinogen – that then go on to regulate functions in the cell.
- ACE2 is present in all people but the quantity can vary among individuals and in different tissues and cells.
- It is present in epithelial cells, which line certain tissues and create protective barriers.
- ACE2 is a vital element in a biochemical pathway that is critical to regulating processes such as blood pressure, wound healing and inflammation, called the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) pathway.
- ACE2 helps modulate the many activities of a protein called angiotensin II (ANG II) that increases blood pressure and inflammation, increasing damage to blood vessel linings and various types of tissue injury.