BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: maxotope

Therapeutics: Can they really beat COVID-19?

As the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) struck the world beginning  in early February of 2020, scientists are struggling to find new ways to combat such a violent and airborne virus. As scientist all over the world race to find a vaccine for this virus, others are studying to find new therapeutics to combat and minimize the effects. A team of researchers at University of Georgia have successfully demonstrated that a set of “drug-like small molecules can block the activity of a key SARS-CoV-2 protein — providing a promising path for new COVID-19 therapeutics”. The team of researchers from UGA were the first to evaluate the SARS-CoV-2  protein PLpro, which is an essential part of the coronavirus’s  replication and ability to suppress host immune function. Scott Pegan, director of UGA’s Center for Drug Discovery, collaborated with scientists David Crich, Ralph Tripp, and Brian Cummings to explore inhibitors designed to “knock out PLpro and stop the replication of the virus”.

The Study

Throughout the study, the researchers from UGA began to test a series of compounds that were discovered twelve years ago that were shown to be effective against the SARS outbreak of 2002-03. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more lives than the SARS outbreak of 2002-03, but at the time when this test was conducted, the researchers believed that the COVID-19 mortality rate was lower based on available numbers in early June. Pegan, along with the other two researchers responsible for this discovery, realized the similarities both SARS viruses possessed and formulated compounds that helped block the proteins of the coronavirus that are responsible for the genes to replicate. These compounds, known as naphthalene-based PLpro inhibitors, are shown to effectively halt SARS-CoV-2 PLpro ability to replicate and suppress host immune functions. “The kind of small molecules that we’re developing are some of the first that are specifically designed for this coronavirus protease……Our hope is that we can turn this into a starting point for creating a drug that we can get in front of the Food and Drug Administration”, Pegan states. UGA students also brought their expertises to the table, trying to compare both SARS diseases in order to find a possible Therapeutic that is affective against COVID-19.

Why is this Important?

As COVID-19 became the most prevalent topic of discussion in 2020, researchers and scientists still don’t know half of the characteristics that trigger the SARS-CoV-2 virus that make it so contagious and harmful. Pegan, along with his associates from UGA, have added to the efforts around the world in learning how to combat this world threatening epidemic. “Pegan’s lab used modeling techniques to locate the differences between PLpro in the 2003 outbreak and the current outbreak, revealing the comparative weakness of the SARS-CoV-2 PLpro and suggesting potential inhibitors for testing”. As many scientists and researchers are struggling to find ways to combat this disease, the discovery of a new compound that can halt the ability for the virus to spread provides hope to finding a cure for this deadly virus.

“Enveloped” viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, are surrounded by a phospholipid bilayer derived from the host cell as it leaves the cell. This phospholipid contains spike proteins, which is what the virus uses to bind with receptors throughout human cells. The receptor that the virus binds to are known as “Angiotensin converting enzyme 2” (ACE2). After the virus binds with a receptor, it enter the cell via endocytosis, and continues to transfer throughout the cell until it reaches the nucleus, where it’s able to alter the transcription of the RNA within the nucleus and cause more of the virus to duplicate. Vaccines and some therapeutics bind with these spike proteins located around the phospholipid bilayer in order to prevent the proteins from binding to any human cell receptors. 

With the infection and death rate rising each day, along with new discoveries about how this virus functions, it is apparent that scientists and researchers are working as fast as they can to find new therapeutics and vaccines in order to stop the spread of this virus. I believe we all need to put fourth an effort in stopping the spread of this worldwide pandemic, as Scott Pegan did with his courageous findings of a possible new therapeutic, because if we don’t act soon, it will be too late. What do you think? Leave a comment below!

Snacks That Smile Back…No More!

Throughout the world, child obesity is a global issue that has gone on for many years. With very few signs of progress, many people around the world are struggling to find innovative ways to save this worldwide problem. As more and more kids interact with many of these social media platforms including: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, many fast food chains use this as an opportunity to spread the word about their food. Disregarding the foods and beverages of high fat, sugar, and salt(HFSS) could be one of the leading factors to the growing percentage with children who suffer with obesity. As part of U.K. government’s plan to limit child obesity through 2030, the article states that the government is “considering limitations on television advertising for HFSS products between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.”.

This picture displays common junk food found in commercials.
This picture displays common junk food found in commercials.

The Study

Throughout this study, researchers used data on children’s exposure to HFSS advertising during the controlled hours(5:30 a.m.— 9 p.m.), as well as previously published information on the association between exposure to HFSS and children’s calorie intake in order to trigger a decrease in children being exposed to HFSS food. As the experiment was conducted, the ending results concluded that if all advertising containing foods with HFSS were to be limited or even terminated, 3.7 million children in the U.K. would experience on average 1.5 fewer advertisements per day, as well as decrease there calorie intake by an average of 9.1 kcal. The article states that these findings “would reduce the number of children aged 5 through 17 with obesity by 4.6% and the number of children overweight by 3.6%”. This data is equivalent to 40,000 fewer U.K. children who struggle with obesity and over 120,000 fewer children who classify as overweight. It it important to keep in mind that this study only focuses on the direct impact of HFSS advertising on children’s calorie intake and not the changing of children dietary preferences and habits.

Why is this Important?

This study proved that implementing a certain time frame throughout the day(5:30 a.m. -9 p.m.) to potentially reduce the exposure of less-healthy food(HFSS) advertising could provoke a valuable contribution towards not only protecting the future health of children who live in the U.K., but children all over the world. As children are becoming more connected with social media, it’s hard to avoid the mass amount of advertisements displayed throughout all these sites. “children now consume media from a range of sources, and increasingly from online and on-demand services,” says Dr. Oliver Mytton, researcher at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at Cambridge University.

Many of these less-healthy food options contain saturated Fats. These fats have fatty acid chains with “single-bonds” between carbons. This allows chains to pack closely together forming a solid, which are less healthy to consume due to the formation of plaques in blood vessels. These fatty foods also contain lots of carbohydrates as well. When consuming an excessive amount of carbs, your blood sugar levels can get too high. This leads to your body creating more insulin, which tells your body to store extra glucose as fat, making the person gain more weight, as well as lead to other major health issues.

I believe that obesity is a prevalent issue throughout our world, and the more studies and experiments we conduct to try and prevent this condition, the more healthy our world can become. What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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