A recent study published in the scientific journal Cell found that infection with the novel coronavirus can cause monkey kidney cells to grow abnormal, branched extensions, Newsweek reports.
The extensions, known as filopodia, were found to be much more pronounced in infected cells than in uninfected cells. Filopodia generally act as “feet” for cells, helping them in movements and cell division.
The researchers theorize that when SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, infects the cells, it freezes them in a stage of the cell cycle. This essentially stops the infected cells from dividing but lets them serve as factories for the virus to reproduce and spread.
The monkey kidney cells serve as accurate representations of how the coronavirus infects human lung cells because both have high levels of the ACE II enzyme, which the virus detects and uses to infect the cells.
The researchers also found that infected cells had high levels of two proteins, called kinases. Known as casein kinase II (CK2) and p38 MAP kinase, these two enzymes have been found to play a role in killing infected cells.
For this reason, the authors of the study have found possible already-existing medicines that could target these kinases and help treat COVID-19, and have encouraged other researchers to employ these medicines in clinical trials to evaluate their effectivity.
Given the implications, this discovery represents a new step forward in the continuing search for potential COVID-19 treatments and possible cures.
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