Researchers at University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center, including a Washington native, have discovered a genetic protein in the human immune system that impairs the coronavirus’ ability to initiate infection, which could lead to treatments for COVID-19.
Dr. Katrina Mar of Olympia ,and graduate of Western Washington University, is a postdoctoral researcher in the Schoggins lab at UTSW and co-lead author of the study. She, along with Dr. John Schoggins, associate professor of microbiology at UTSW, partnered with scientists in Switzerland and New York.
The research team looked at the impact of the LY6E protein on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory (MERS) coronavirus, and COVID-19. In all three cases, the LY6E genetic protein inhibited the viruses’ ability to initiate infection.
“Because LY6E is a naturally occurring protein in humans, we hope this knowledge may help in the development of therapies that might one day be used to treat coronavirus infections,” Schoggins said. Like many scientific discoveries, this one was a byproduct of another study.
The results of the study were released in a preprint by USTW — which means it has not been officially published or undergone formal peer review. Researchers concluded that therapies mimicking the LY6E protein could provide a key defense against coronavirus. Similar antiviral fusion inhibitors have been successfully used for HIV-1.