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Universities join forces to fight COVID-19

Industry News | August 27, 2020 | By:

Researchers around the world are racing to find treatments to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused more than 16 million human infections globally.

Researchers at Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia are collaborating to explore whether the tendency of the virus to bind to carbohydrate-based polymers, such as heparin, can be used to develop virus-trapping gels and surfaces.

“The virus passes a large number of carbohydrate-based molecules on its way into the cells in our body,” explains Maren Roman, associate professor of sustainable biomaterials in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment and affiliated faculty member of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “If we can determine which carbohydrates or carbohydrate chains the virus binds to, we can develop materials that work like a fly trap and capture virus particles before they get into our bodies.”

“We will use cutting-edge computational tools to study which carbohydrate molecules bind most strongly to the virus,” says Robert Woods, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and chemistry, at the University of Georgia’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. “This work is a natural extension of our prior work on the virus, which has given us detailed computer models of one of its surface proteins, namely the Spike protein. This protein is responsible for the virus’s ability to enter cells and its tendency to bind to carbohydrates.”

The research is supported by a $200,000 National Science Foundation RAPID COVID-19 grant, with contributions from the Division of Materials Research and the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.

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