Research into glycans and their role as protective shields could be used to create vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.
There is a glimmer of hope amid the grim figures of more than 95 million cases and more than 2 million people killed by the pandemic.
This hope comes from Beyond Shielding: The Roles of Glycans in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein, an article published by the American Chemical Society, an institution which reports on the best chemical research taking place in the United States.
The author, Lorenzo Casalino, is a biochemistry researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who has published molecular dynamics simulations of glycan functions.
Glycans are bioactive compounds which are active in the immune system, as well as being involved in the operation of the cardiovascular system.
Overall, the work presents hitherto unknown structural and functional insights into the SARS-CoV-2 protein and its glycan coat and, according to the study, providing a strategy that could be used for vaccine development.
“We built a full-length model of the glycosylated SARS-CoV-2 S protein, both in the open and closed states, augmenting the available structural and biological data,” says Casalino.
Another of the scientist’s achievements has been in showing how the glycan shield covers a large amount of the protein’s surface, which could serve as inspiration for much more effective Covid-19 treatments.
“Additionally, end-to-end accessibility analyses outline a complete overview of the vulnerabilities of the glycan shield of the SARS-CoV-2 S protein, which may be exploited in the therapeutic efforts targeting this molecular machine,” the article explains.
Multiple molecular dynamics simulations were used to obtain these results, and to provide an atomistic perspective on glycan functions and protein interactions.
It is hoped that these discoveries will be helpful in slowing the progression of the infectious respiratory disease that originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, and which eventually spread around the world.
This pandemic has not only caused the loss of human life due to the lack of immunity but has also resulted in such global economic damage as has not been seen for almost 100 years, when the Great Depression began in the United States as a result of the Wall Street Crash on Tuesday, October 29, 1929.