Researchers at IBEC help identifying a drug in clinical phase that blocks the effects of SARS-Co-V2

By April 3, 2020April 8th, 2020IBEC

IBEC researchers led by ICREA Research Professor Núria Montserrat, together with international collaborators, have identified a drug capable of blocking the effects of the SARS-Co-V2 virus, the origin of the Coronavirus 2019 disease

The treatment, which can be tested on two hundred Covid-19 patients as of today, has proven effective in mini-kidneys generated from human stem cells. Using hese organoids generated by bioengineering techniques, it has been deciphered how SARS-Co-V2 interacts and infects human kidney cells.

To carry out the study, published in the prestigious journal Cell, the experts have used mini-kidneys created from human stem cells generated at IBEC, a BIST centre, by Nuria Montserrat’s team. These organoids, which have been obtained applying bioengineering techniques, reproduce the complexity of the real organ and allowed the researchers to decipher how SARS-Co-V2 interacts and infects human kidney cellsMoreover, they have validated a therapy able to reduce substantially viral load of COVID-19. 

The use of human organoids allows us to test in a very agile way the treatments that are already being used for other diseases or that are close to being validated. When time is short, these 3D structures dramatically reduce the time we would spend trying a new drug on humans” states Núria Montserrat.

The role of the ACE2 receptor in SARS-Co-V2 infection 

Recent publications have shown that to infect a cell, coronaviruses use a protein, called S, that binds to a receptor on human cells called ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2). Considering that this binding has been identified as a gateway for the virus to enter the body, avoiding it could constitute a possible therapeutic target. 

Following this strategy, the researchers explain that they have focused on understanding the role of the receptor ‘ACE2 in these human organoids because they mimic, in a few millimeters almost all the characteristics of a real organ. The study provides new insights on key aspects of SARS-Co-V2 and its interactions at a cellular level, and also how the virus can infect the blood vessels and kidneys. 

Núria Montserrat leads the Pluripotency for organ regeneration group at IBEC and is a member of the Center for Network Biomedical Research in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER BBN). Apart from Núria, Elena Garreta, Patricia Prado and Carmen Hurtado, from her research group at IBEC, have also contributed to this work. 

More information on IBEC website

Reference article: Monteil et al, Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 infections in engineered human
tissues using clinical-grade soluble human ACE2, Cell 2020, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.004


Know more about BIST researchers fighting COVID-19