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Cell membrane defence against coronavirus

Date: 24 November 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Researchers are investigating what treatments could make the membrane more resistant to virus entry and prevent infection.



To infect a human cell, the novel coronavirus needs to first bind to the cell membrane using its spike protein. The cell membrane is the cell’s outermost line of defence against the coronavirus.



  • Cell membranes serve as a barrier between the cell’s interior and its surrounding environment. In themselves, they host many activities necessary for cell function. They are just a few nanometres thick.

  • Researchers are using neutron scattering to investigate how the cell membrane and the virus impact each other.

  • By determining how the coronavirus penetrates the cell membrane, scientists can develop treatments that hinder this process.

  • Many researchers are exploring ways to combat the virus by targeting its spike proteins, but fewer are paying attention to the site where the infection process begins: the cell membrane.

  • The new research looks to establish a molecular understanding of the membrane properties that allow viral entry, how membranes change when in contact with the virus, and what membrane modifications could inhibit the infection process.

  • The team is using ORNL’s liquids reflectometer (LIQREF) to examine the conformation of membranes and viral spike proteins, as well as the effects of certain therapeutic candidates.

  • With the instrument, scientists can measure the trajectories of neutrons as they interact with different biological materials. They then use this information to determine how a sample is organised at the molecular level.

  • Researchers measured how the membrane’s properties change when exposed to melatonin or azithromycin, the products that are currently being investigated as possible treatments for mitigating Covid-19 symptoms

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