Peptoid Oligomers Target Viral Membranes

Peptoid Oligomers Target Viral Membranes
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Novel York University researchers have devised a novel way for targeting various viruses that cause disease. This new approach could be fatal for viruses with a lipid membrane, which includes those that cause sickness. The strategy may avoid treatment resistance that emerges when viruses change to alter their surface proteins, which are the most common targets for conventional anti-viral medications, by targeting the lipid membrane. This novel technique is based on a synthetic version of antimicrobial peptides, which are produced naturally by our immune system and can target pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. These researchers created a more stable synthetic version called “peptoid” that can attach to viral envelope lipids more effectively, breaking the viral membrane and destroying the viral particle.

While framing it in this manner may appear macabre, the clock is ticking until the next viral epidemic. In the quiet before the storm, researching novel anti-viral medicines is critical for greater preparedness. Viruses, on the other hand, are a worthy foe, rapidly altering their surface proteins so that the therapeutic targets that are currently present will most certainly change quite soon. Many anti-viral techniques that target these surface proteins have had this problem. For example, we can see how quickly SARS-CoV-2 changed to produce new variants with distinct characteristics and levels of susceptibility to vaccine-mediated immunity.

However, one component of viruses is derived directly from our own cells rather than the viral DNA. This is the viral membrane, which many viruses’steal’ from our cells in order to drive our cellular machinery to produce new viral particles. While such stealing is heinous, it exposes the virus to treatments that target the membrane and prevents the virus from developing an effective resistance strategy because it does not build the membranes itself.

This latest approach attacks the viral membrane and draws inspiration from antimicrobial peptides produced naturally by our own immune system. Although such peptides can efficiently target viruses, they are very unstable and may induce negative effects if administered in high amounts. Instead, these scientists created a synthetic version known as “peptoid,” which are more stable and particular to virus membranes.

Peptoids have been demonstrated to be effective in combating viruses such as Zika, Rift Valley fever, and chikungunya. Furthermore, the peptiods should not target our own cells because the viral membrane differs slightly in composition from our own membranes.  “Because phosphatidylserine is found on the exterior of viruses, it can be a specific target for peptoid to recognize viruses, but not recognize—and therefore spare—our own cells,” said Patrick Tate, a researcher involved in the study. “Moreover, because viruses acquire lipids from the host rather than encoding from their own genomes, they have better potential to avoid antiviral resistance.”

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