The virus that causes COVID-19 undertakes a massive takeover of the body’s fat-processing system, creating cellular storehouses of fat that empower the virus to hijack the body’s molecular machinery and cause disease.
After scientists discovered the important role of fat for SARS-CoV-2, they used weight-loss drugs and other fat-targeting compounds to try to stop the virus in cell culture. Cut off from its fatty fuel, the virus stopped replicating within 48 hours.
The authors of the recent paper in Nature Communications caution that the results are in cell culture, not in people; much more research remains to see if such compounds hold promise for people diagnosed with COVID. But the scientists, from Oregon Health & Science University and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, call the work a significant step toward understanding the virus.
“This is exciting work, but it’s the start of a very long journey,” said Fikadu Tafesse, the corresponding author of the study and assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at OHSU. “We have an interesting observation, but we have a lot more to learn about the mechanisms of this disease.”
Fat as fuel
The team embarked on the study based on observations that people with a high body-mass index and conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes are more sensitive to the disease.
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