The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is believed to enter the body through receptors on the surface of cells in the airways, called the ACE-2 receptors. It provides the gateway for the virus to the bloodstream and 'facilitate' infection with the coronavirus, according to the scientists.

Scientists from the University of Leicester found a new way to prevent the virus from binding with these receptors through injecting the body with "decoy proteins." These proteins mimic the properties of ACE-2 receptors and are more attractive to the virus than the cells.

Scientists hope that injecting the "decoy proteins" into the body could stop the coronavirus from infecting someone, according to the report from the Daily Mail.

Hope against the horrible pandemic

The researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Canada's University of British Columbia have had promising early results of using "decoy proteins". They added a genetically modified 'soluble' form of ACE-2-called the hrsACE-2- to human cells in the lab.

Their results showed that the viral growth of their experiment reduced by a factor of 1,000 to 5,000 in cell cultures. The drug APN001 by Apeiron Biologics contains the hrsACE-2 as an active substance and is ready for the Phase II trial aiming to treat 200 COVID-19 patients in China.

The "decoy proteins" will distract and absorb the viruses once they get inside the body and prevent the person from developing symptoms of COVID-19. This approach is also described as the 'hope against the horrible pandemic.'

Professor Nick Brindle of the University of Leicester said that, "by creating an attractive decoy protein for the virus to bind to, we are aiming to block the ability of this virus to infect cells and protect the function of the cell surface receptors."

If this is proven to be successful, it could have the ability to prevent new cases of this deadly disease from spreading around the world.

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Other routes of weaponizing the ACE-2 receptors

Ever since ACE-2 receptors were known to be the entry point for viruses, scientists have worked to weaponize them to fight the virus. However, there are other ways of doing that.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals from Massachusetts, and Vir Biotechnology from San Francisco are taking vastly different approaches. They are attempting to completely deprive the virus away in by reducing the ACE-2 receptors in the body.

By going through that method, they believe that the virus will not be able to infect the right cells since it is unable to get near them. However, scientists are divided whether it is good or bad.

At first, it may look promising because it prevents a person from contracting the disease. But reducing the ACE-2 has unintended consequences. Especially when in some parts of the body, the receptors function as the regulator of blood pressure by controlling enzymes linked to the heart and blood flow.

One example is a study in mice conducted in 2008 found that getting rid of ACE-2 more likely made the animals suffer from severe breathing difficulties once infected with the SARS virus.

There are numerous studies of the interaction of ACE-2 and the coronavirus but only more research will provide a clearer picture of any links thereof.

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