Scientists believe the model will help us better understand Sars-CoV-2 and could also be used in research on other diseases.
Researchers at Rockefeller University in the United States created an atomic-level 3D model of the Sars-CoV-2 replication system. The study, published in the journal Cell, will help scientists better understand the new coronavirus and could speed up the development of drugs to treat Covid-19.
“We now have an additional structural template that can be really helpful for drug developers trying to find new compounds that could get into this molecular machine and make it stop,” said Elizabeth Campbell, one of the researchers, in a statement.
Like many other viruses, Sars-CoV-2 copies its own genetic material with the help of several enzymes, mainly RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (or RdRp) and helicase.
The way these molecules organize themselves does not change, and they have “binding pockets” that they use to bind to other particles.
That’s exactly why, according to scientists, understanding how they work and what can stop these molecules is a great strategy to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Several studies are already being carried out for this purpose, but this is the first time that such a precise model of the virus replication system has been created.
The team also created a computer model that allows testing how the enzymes bind to molecules present in other substances, such as antiviral drugs.
“When one is looking for molecules that can lodge into a particular binding pocket, having a detailed picture of what that pocket looks like greatly improves the computational docking precision,” explained Brandon Malone, co-author of the article.
Although it was created with the purpose of stopping Covid-19 in mind, scientists believe the discovery will help to understand other pathogens whose replication is based on RNA, such as dengue and Ebola viruses.
“Now we’ll be able to not only propose models for the mechanics of viral replication, but also actually test those models,” noted James Chen, the project leader.