Heparin is an anticoagulant that could stop COVID-19 from entering cells in up to 70%, according to a study carried out by the Federal University of Sao Paulo (Unifesp), in collaboration with English and Italian scientists.
Heparin may slow coronavirus entry into cells by up to 70%, study finds
The drug, in addition to fighting coagulation disorders (a complication in COVID-19 patients that causes death) that can affect the pulmonary vessels and oxygenation, appears to have the ability to “hinder” the entry of SARS-CoV-2 in the cells.
The scientists conducted laboratory tests on cell lines from the African green monkey kidney (Cercopithecus aethiops) and found that heparin reduced cell invasion by the new coronavirus by 70%.
The study, released this Monday, by the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp), indicates that the scientists discovered that in addition to serving as an anticoagulant, heparin can bind to various proteins, such as “those of factors of growth and cytokines that bind to specific receptors on the surface of target cells. ”
This prompted Unifesp scientists, in collaboration with English and Italian colleagues, to assess whether the surface protein of the new coronavirus – called the spike protein – that is responsible for the infection of the cells, bound to heparin.
Experiments confirmed that when heparin binds to the tip proteins of SARS-CoV-2, it causes a conformational alteration in these molecules that would lead to a kind of “block” for the virus.
Helena Bonciani Nader, professor at Unifesp and coordinator of the project on the Brazilian side, said:
“If it does not enter the cell, the virus cannot multiply and is unsuccessful in infection.”
There was evidence that heparin, which is a drug that performs several pharmacological functions, also had the ability to prevent viral infections, including from coronaviruses, but the evidence had not been very strong. We were able to demonstrate this property of the drug in vitro tests, “added Nader.
The trajectory of the research team
Brazilian scientist Helena Bonciani Nader and the group she leads have been studying glycosaminoglycans for more than 40 years, as the complex carbohydrates to which heparin belongs are called.
They developed the first low-molecular-weight heparins, used clinically as anticoagulant and antithrombotic agents, even in patients with COVID-19.
The hearing study in Italy
Last April Italy, through the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA). authorized to start the multicenter study with the drug heparin,
The results of the study were published on the bioRxiv platform, in a pre-print version (without peer review).