This cinnamon-flavored chewing gum may reduce the spread of COVID-19, says study

New Delhi: Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a chewing gum that can reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission by acting as a “trap” for the novel coronavirus. According to a recent study published in the journal ‘Molecular Therapy’, gum contains a plant-grown protein that can potentially reduce the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 infection in saliva and reduce its transmission. Is.

The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers from The Wistar Institute and Fraunhofer, USA.

In a statement released by the University of Pennsylvania, study lead author Henry Daniels said SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and when an infected person sneezes, coughs or speaks, some of the virus can be expelled. and can reach others. He added that the gum provides an opportunity to neutralize the virus in saliva, providing an easy way to cut down on the source of disease transmission to people.

Although vaccines have played a major role in changing the course of the pandemic, they have not ruled out transmission of COVID-19. According to recent research, even people who have been fully vaccinated can become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and carry the same viral load without vaccination.

Researchers study ACE2 protein to develop chewing gum

Even before the start of the pandemic, Daniels was developing a special protein with therapeutic potential in his laboratory. The protein, called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), was being studied to understand its potential to treat high blood pressure, and was grown in the laboratory using a patented plant-based production system.

Incidentally, the ACE2 receptor on human cells serves as the binding site for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Also, according to some studies, injections of ACE2 can reduce the viral load in people with severe infections.

The peer-reviewed study said the scientists bombarded plant material with the DNA of the target protein, so that the plant could take up the chloroplast DNA and start growing the protein. The plant material could be used as a means of delivering the protein, and was freeze-dried and ground-up. Protein drug synthesis is typically an expensive production and purification process, but the plant-based system helped scientists overcome several obstacles, the study said.

Another group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania was developing a chewing gum containing a protein grown from plants to disrupt dental plaque. Daniels and his colleagues combined their research on ACE2 with chewing gum technology. To test its ability to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in oral activity, they infused a gum with a plant-grown ACE2 protein.

Ronald Coleman, another researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said Daniels contacted him to learn whether the levels of SARS-CoV-2 virus in saliva samples could be validated internally. Coleman said Daniels’ approach to making proteins in plants and using them orally is cheap and hopefully scalable.

ACE2 incorporated into cinnamon-flavored gum tablets

Researchers tested chewing gum by growing ACE2 in plants and combining it with another compound that enables proteins to cross mucosal barriers and facilitate binding, the study said. The scientists incorporated the resulting plant-material into cinnamon-flavored gum tablets.

They also incubated samples obtained from nasopharyngeal swabs from Covid-19-infected patients with gum and found that ACE2 could neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus present, the study said. The study noted that the gum largely prevented viral particles from entering cells, either by blocking the ACE2 receptor on the cells, or by binding directly to the spike protein.

The team of researchers exposed samples from COVID-19 patients to ACE2 gum, and found that viral RNA levels dropped so dramatically that it became almost undetectable, the authors noted in the study.

Scientists intend to conduct clinical trials to evaluate whether the approach is safe and effective when tested in people infected with SARS-CoV-2, and are seeking permission for this. Chewing gum may be given to patients whose infection status is unknown, or even for dental examination, if clinical trials prove the gum to be safe and effective.

The authors noted in the study that gum may reduce the chances of passing the virus on to caregivers. Daniels said the glue could be used as an additional tool with physical barriers such as masks to reduce the chance of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

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