COVID-19: New Vulnerable Areas Identified on Spike Protein’s Surface That May Help Future Vaccine Development, Scientists Say | UK news
Scientists have discovered new vulnerable spots on the surface of the COVID-19 spike protein for antibodies that could help vaccine development.
Coronavirus is surrounded by spike proteins that it uses to enter and infect human cells.
COVID Vaccines teach the immune system to make antibodies against the spike protein.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt have developed a detailed model of the spike protein in order to identify potential target sites on its surface for the antibodies.
They said previous models haven’t shown the flexibility of the spike protein or the movements of the protective glycans – which they describe as chains of sugar molecules – that coat it.
The team said the glycans help the virus escape a person’s immune system by moving back and forth in a motion they have compared to wipers in a car.
The researchers said their simulations, published in the PLOS Computational Biology Journal, enabled them to identify spots on the surface of the spike protein that are least protected by the glycan “shields”.
While some of the sites discovered were known from previous research, the team said they also managed to identify new ones.
Researcher Mateusz Sikora said: “We are in a phase of pandemic triggered by the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 with mutations that specifically focus on the spike protein.
“Our approach can support the design of vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, especially when established methods have problems.”