Trial Drug (Soluble Form of ACE2) Can Significantly Impact Early Stages of COVID-19 Infection in Engineered Human Tissues; Drug Interferes with Viral Spike Binding to ACE2 Receptor on Cell Surfaces

An international team led by University of British Columbia (UBC) researcher Dr. Josef Penninger has found a trial drug that effectively blocks the cellular door SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect its hosts. The findings, published online on April 2, 2020 in Cell, hold promise as a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 2, 2020, had affected more than 981,000 people and claimed the lives of 50,000 people worldwide. The study provides new insights into key aspects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys. The open-access article is titled "Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Engineered Human Tissues Using Clinical-Grade Soluble Human ACE2." We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented pandemic," says Dr. Penninger, Professor in UBC's Faculty of Medicine, Director of the Life Sciences Institute and the Canada 150 Research Chair in Functional Genetics at UBC. "This work stems from an amazing collaboration among academic researchers and companies, including Dr. Ryan Conder's gastrointestinal group at STEMCELL Technologies in Vancouver; Nuria Montserrat in Spain; Drs. Haibo Zhang and Art Slutsky from Toronto; and especially Ali Mirazimi's infectious biology team in Sweden, who have been working tirelessly day and night for weeks to better understand the pathology of this disease and to provide breakthrough therapeutic options." ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2)-- a protein on the surface of the cell membrane -- is now at center-stage in this outbreak as the key receptor for the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2.
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