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Synthetic DNA could prevent coronavirus from infecting human cells; researchers looking to start treating patients

Synthetic DNA (UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences/Flickr)

Researchers at the University of Louisville believe they have developed a method that blocks the coronavirus from infecting human cells.

In an announcement Wednesday, researches said the methodology involves synthetic DNA, which targets and binds to human protein. Early tests, the university said, show the DNA may stop the virus from replicating inside the human body.

Louisville has already filed an application with the Food and Drug Administration seeking approval to begin treating patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

The synthetic DNA, or aptamer, was discovered by Louisville’s Paula Bates, John Trent and Don Miller. They previously have applied it in a variety of ways, including as a potential therapeutic drug against multiple types of cancer, the university said.

“Like many scientists, as soon as I heard about the new coronavirus, I wanted to help and started to think about how my area of research might intersect with coronavirus research efforts,” Bates, a professor of medicine, said in a statement. “I am fortunate to be at UofL, which is one of the few places in the country where we have the facilities to do experiments using the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

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Researchers continue to try to find methods to combat the coronavirus as it continues to spread across the United States. More than 45,000 people have died as a result of the virus. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Health said the state has experienced more than 41,000 cases of the coronavirus with 1,961 deaths.

On Tuesday, researchers said hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that President Donald Trump has said is a game-changer in the fight against the coronavirus, showed no benefits to patients suffering from the virus.

Many experts believe a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be widely available until the spring of 2021. Johnson and Johnson are scheduled to begin clinical testing on a potential vaccine in the fall. The company said it hopes to have an affordable vaccine available globally in early 2021.

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© 2020 MassLive.com