A study carried out at the Biosciences Institute (IBB) of Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) indicated a potential target for the treatment of covid-19. A gene identified by the researchers may be associated with interactions between lung proteins and the new coronavirus, which may indicate a method of fighting the disease.
The researchers identified the alteration in the expression of a gene called TRIB3, responsible for the production of a protein of the same name and which has a high probability of interacting with the new coronavirus protein in lung epithelial cells – these cells make the internal lining of the organ and are preferred targets for the new coronavirus. According to the study, this protein has previously been reported to reduce infection and replication of other viruses.
“TRIB3 has the potential to interact with proteins of the virus and this can, for example, decrease the replication of the virus within the cell, as already demonstrated for the hepatitis C virus. In other words, there is the possibility that an interaction of TRIB3 with SARS-CoV-2 proteins [novo coronavírus] inhibit the biological cycle of the virus ”, said Unesp IBB researcher Robson Carvalho, who leads the study.
The TRIB3 gene decreases its expression in elderly males, which may help to explain the occurrence of more severe cases in this population. With these results, according to the researchers, compounds capable of reversing this process and which manage to stimulate the expression of TRIB3 should be evaluated as a potential treatment against the new coronavirus.
According to Carvalho, in Europe, there is already a Spanish company conducting clinical trials with a drug against endometrial cancer that is capable of increasing the performance of TRIB3.
The research work started about a year ago, but was focused on the study of cachexia – weight loss and muscle atrophy – in patients with lung cancer. The researchers studied the profile of gene expression over the aging of the lung. In March, with the covid-19 pandemic, scientists redirected their work to research the disease, with support from the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp).
“Our initial idea was to identify molecules that are secreted by the lung and that can eventually act on other organs and tissues. We talked and thought ‘if we are analyzing molecules released by the lung tumor that can act on other organs, we could think of a similar approach and evaluate the interaction between lung proteins and covid-19 virus proteins’, ”explained Carvalho.