Coronavirus, the University of Trento discovers how the virus manages to enter human cells: “It is the result of deception ”


TRENTO. An important discovery that could suggest new strategies to limit the attack and therefore prevent or fight Sars and Covid-19. It was done by an interdisciplinary research team, coordinated by the University of Trento and Federico II of Naples, which through a study explains how the assault on the cell human occurs through lipid rafts (thickening of the membrane) that allow the virus to break through, penetrate and spread. The work, published in “Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids”.

Usually we talk about life rafts, but there are others that represent a danger instead. This is the case of lipid rafts, through which i Coronaviruses attack the human cell. The study by the research team investigated what happens during “Boarding” and the attacker’s stratagems.

It emerges that, to penetrate the human cell, the virus deceives the membrane that surrounds it. The membrane plays a fundamental role because it protects the normal cellular functioning on which the growth and development of the tissues and the functionality of the various organs of the body depend. The membrane responds with false friendly remains (like a ligand, a molecule capable of binding a biomolecule and forming a complex that performs or induces a biological function), the membrane responds with localized thickenings. These thickenings, called “lipid rafts”, allow the virus to break through and penetrate inside the cell.

Through a mechano-biology approach, the way in which the microstructural properties of the membrane interact with the biochemical processes and determine the formation of rafts is explained.

The work, published in the international scientific journal “Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids“, Based on biomedical and engineering knowledge, it could suggest new strategies to limit the virus attack and therefore prevent or fight diseases such as Sars and Covid-19.

The research is directed and conducted by Luca Deseri is Nicola Pugno, professors of the Solid and Structural Mechanics Group of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering of the University of Trento, is by the team of Massimiliano Fraldi, professor of the Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture of the University of Naples-Federico II, in synergy with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, in the USA, with the University of Palermo and with the University of Ferrara, where the experimental activity took place.

Deseri explains how boarding takes place: “The cell membrane regulates the transport of nutrients, the expulsion of waste products to the outside and acts as a barrier to the entry of toxic substances and pathogens, including viruses. In the case of the SARS-CoV-1 virus, as well as for SARS-Cov-2, which led to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the virus deceives the membrane by exposing specific anti-receptors, similar to the ligands with which the cell’s receptors normally mate, thus activating localized thickenings of the membrane, called ‘lipid rafts’, which then allow the virus to break through and penetrate inside the cell“.

The scientific results bring an unprecedented contribution to the current scientific debate on diseases caused by the Coronavirus family and which fall into the Sars category (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). “This study could suggest new possible strategies to develop innovative therapeutic approaches to prevent or combat the action of the virus, taking advantage of the integration of biomedical and engineering knowledge” observe Deseri, Pugno and Fraldi.

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