With COVID-19 being the topic of discussion in the world right now scientists all around the world are trying to find any solution they can to help prevent this virus. A recent study has found that a specific chewing gum could actually reduce the spread of COVID-19. The research was led by UPenn’s School of Dental Medicine’s scientists. The study involved using samples of saliva from COVID-19 patients.
The transfer of COVID-19 to the body involves spike proteins and ACE2 proteins. The COVID-19 virus is surrounded by receptor proteins which are what actually bind to other receptors of our cells in our bodies. This binding is how the virus is able to enter our body and affect the different cells. The specific protein that the COVID-19 spike proteins bind to in our body is called the ACE2 receptor protein. Scientists began researching whether they could inhibit this binding to the ACE2 protein.
The research done at Upenn led by Henry Daniell actually had began their research before they knew it. Prior to COVID-19 the team was researching the ACE2 proteins to prevent hypertension. They were able to grow this protein in the lab using a plant based production system. This involved putting DNA that was specific to creating the ACE2 proteins into the plants. This plant material could be a new means of delivering this protein. The Dental School had been working on a chewing gum that also used such plant proteins to prevent plaque in their patients. Daniell began to wonder if his team’s ACE2 plant based proteins could combine with the chewing gum plant protein based compound. This sparked the collaboration of both teams to combine their research into one solution for COVID-19. When the ACE2 plant receptor proteins were implanted into the chewing gum they tested the saliva from COVID-19 patients to see the change in the cells. After the chewing gum was exposed to the saliva the viral RNA that was present in the cells was almost eradicated completely. This was able to work because the COVID-19 spike proteins bind to the chewing gum’s ACE2 receptor proteins instead of the body’s cell’s ACE2 proteins. It served as a barrier or replacement for the proteins to bind to distracting it from the human cells. This prevented almost all the viral cells from affecting the important human cells. Though this research is both new and in its early stages of development it could be a great asset in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the future.