Anika Chebrolu from Frisco in Texas wins $25,000 in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She discovered a molecule that binds to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, whereupon the pathogen may no longer be able to penetrate cells. The research work of the young scientist could lead to a drug against COVID-19.
A student (14) in the USA took part in a science competition and promptly won first place. The girl discovered a potential drug against the corona virus SARS-CoV-2, which triggers the infectious disease COVID-19. In a video broadcast, the teenager presented her discovery to a committee of experts.
The teenager presented her discovery to a committee of experts via video transmission and caused astonishment. Together with her mentor Dr. Mahfuza Ali, the eighth-grader discovered a rare molecule that binds selectively to the spike protein of the corona virus SARS-CoV-2. This binding may prevent the virus from infecting cells. The discovery could therefore be the basis for the development of a new drug against COVID-19.
The coronavirus has so-called spike proteins that are located on the outside of the virus. With the help of these proteins, the virus attaches itself to human and animal cells and then penetrates them. More specifically, the spike protein binds to ACE2 receptors on the surface of the cells. If an active substance binds to the spike proteins beforehand, these become useless and the virus can no longer bind to cells and therefore cannot penetrate them.
Discovered molecule is supposed to make corona viruses harmless
The discovery of Anika Chebrolu attracts great attention in the USA. “In the last few days I’ve seen that there’s a lot of media fuss about my project because it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic,” the 14-year-old told the American broadcaster CNN. “Like everyone else, I wish that we would soon return to our normal lives,” the young researcher said.
The corona virus is now involved in more than 1.1 million deaths worldwide. According to Johns Hopkins University, SARS-CoV-2 caused around 220,000 victims in the USA alone. Scientists around the globe are currently researching drugs or vaccines to end the pandemic. Has Anika Chebrolu found the missing piece of the puzzle?
“Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases,” comments competition juror Dr. Cindy Moss to CNN. She has an understanding of innovation and is willing to invest her time and talent to make the world a better place. “This gives us all hope,” the juror said.
The inspiration for her research work came during a severe flu infection that the 14-year-old had previously suffered. Originally, her goal was to identify a molecule that binds to influenza viruses. “Due to the immense severity of the COVID 19 pandemic and the dramatic impact it had on the world in such a short time, I changed direction with the help of my mentor to target the SARS CoV-2 virus,” Anika explains.
14-year-old girl apparently lays foundation for COVID-19 cure
In the next step the young winner wants to work now with a team of scientists to develop an actual remedy against COVID-19. Only in the next weeks and months the true potential behind the discovery of the eighth-grader will become apparent. Away from her research work, Anika Chebrolu is a normal teenager. She has Indian roots and is passionate about the classical dance Bharatanatyam, which she has been practicing for eight years. (vb)
WashingtonNewsday Health and Wellness.