Researchers of Virginia Tech and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) discovered that a nanometer cell membrane is the main defense line against SARS COV 2. Thus, all the experts from different fields teamed up to combine their knowledge to address the arising challenges of COVID 19 and uncover a potential area of understanding at the molecular level to better control viral infection.
John Katsaras, a biophysicist, used a neutron scattering device to develop therapeutic approaches that interfere with the severity of COVID disease and control the hospital occupancy. The team identified that the spike protein of the virus facilitates the hijack of host cells. This protein supports the attachment and merger with the human cell, allowing it to replicate in it. Therefore, the researchers diverted to target the cell surface alteration to combat the virus activities.
The team reported, “ Using the advanced technology such as liquid reflectometer showed a positive relationship between the cell membrane conformation and spike protein relation.”
However, Rana Ashkar stated, “to date, the focus was towards inactivation of the spike protein. But with new revelations, the scientist is aiming to understand the process and developing treatments accordingly.”
Ashkar stated, “analyzing the trajectory of the neutron is the best method to observe the nanoscopic profile of membrane, as they can probe biological material at high resolution without impairing them. ”In addition, the neutrons showed the potential to distinguish between hydrogen and isotopes; hence, replacing hydrogen with deuterium enabled the researchers to amplify and alter images of different aspects.
To alter the nature of the membrane, further Ashkar led a characterization experiment by packing the cell membrane with melatonin and azithromycin. Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone compared to azithromycin, an antibiotic for pulmonary disease. Thus, for future studies, Ankner and Phan planned to conduct an analysis using neutron scattering to identify the impact of spike protein activity.
All the researchers envision these methods to succeed in order to establish a platform for a rapid screen process and mitigate COVID.