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Potential coronavirus treatment tested at U of L lab

Posted at 10:00 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 14:15:37-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — University of Louisville scientists say a treatment approved for use in cancer patients has stopped the spread of coronavirus in lab tests.

The treatment is an aptamer, a piece of synthetic DNA that binds to a specific protein and could be used in coronavirus patients if it's found to be effective in patient trials, according to Paula Bates, professor of medicine at the University of Louisville.

"The reason we tried it against the coronavirus was that the same protein that it binds to is known to play a role for many other types of viruses at helping the virus to get into the cell and to replicate the cell," Bates said.

Bates, who called the potential for the treatment exciting, partnered with Kenneth Palmer to test the aptamer against coronavirus in the university's biocontainment lab, she said.

"What they did is they added the aptamer to the cells and that was able to almost completely block the infection of the cells," Bates said.

The next step is to get approval by the FDA to conduct trials with coronavirus patients, she said.

"The FDA and scientists and doctors are moving much faster than usual because they realize the urgency of what we need," she said.

That could mean a few months to determine whether the treatment is effective, she said, and then production of the drug would need to be scaled up.

"Eventually we hope to develop a vaccine that will prevent all of this but this could be used for people who had gotten the coronavirus and wanted to try and prevent getting sick from it," she said.