Sugar aids in cell identification, making it easier for viruses to find their targets.
Digital Desk: Scientists at the Institute of Biomolecular Sciences and Technologies of the University of Louvain (UCLouvain), Belgium, investigated the interaction between sialic acids (SAs), which are sorts of sugar residues present on the surface of cells, and the spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 (using atomic force microscopy). The findings of the study were published in Nature Communications on Tuesday.
The team of scientists led by David Alsteens found a variant of the sugar (9-O-acetylated) residue that decorates the cells and found that it interacted more strongly with the S protein than other sugars.
According to the researchers, sugar helps in promoting cell recognition and allows viruses to identify their targets more easily. However, it also facilitates their attachment point to allow them to enter their host cell and thus initiate their infection.
The scientists also made another groundbreaking discovery. They decided to catch the virus in its trap by preventing it from binding to its host cell. The team discovered that it could be done by blocking the S protein's attachment points and thus suppressing any interaction with the cell surface.
The scientists exemplified that multivalent structures (or glycoclusters) with multiple 9-O-acetylated sialic acids on their surface can block both binding and infection by SARS-CoV-2.
If the virus doesn't attach to the cells, it can't enter and therefore dies (lifetime of 1 to 5 hours). The scientists professed that this blocking action prevents infection.
Currently, various anti-covid vaccines fundamentally address the SARS-CoV-2 mutations but not the virus.
However, this discovery benefits from acting on the virus independently of the mutations, as per the scientists.