April 16, 2024

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Chewing gum containing ACE2 protein may reduce COVID-19 transmission

Chewing gum containing ACE2 protein may reduce COVID-19 transmission


Chewing gum containing ACE2 protein may reduce COVID-19 transmission

Molecular Therapy: Wonderful! Scientists find chewing gum containing ACE2 protein may reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission. 

In a new study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wistar Institute found that a chewing gum laced with a plant-produced protein could be used as a bait to catch the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reducing the virus in saliva load and potentially inhibit transmission .

The discovery could lead to a low-cost tool in the arsenal to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results of recent research published in the journal Molecular Therapy, the paper is titled ” Debulking of SARS-CoV-2 in a using Via Extracellular Signal Regulated Saliva Converting Enzyme 2 in Chewing gum to Decrease Oral Virus Transmission and Infection” .


“SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands,” said senior author Henry Daniell of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry. “We know that when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks, some of the virus is expelled and reaches the mouths of others.

This chewing gum offers an opportunity to neutralize the virus in saliva, giving us a simple way to potentially reduce the source of disease transmission.”


Vaccination against COVID-19 has helped change the course of the pandemic, but it has not stopped the spread. Even fully vaccinated people can still be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and, according to recent research, may carry similar viral loads as unvaccinated people.


Before this pandemic, Daniell had been working on angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is used to treat high blood pressure. His lab uses a patented plant production system to make this protein, along with many others that may have therapeutic potential. By bombarding plant material with DNA encoding the target protein, they induced plant chloroplasts to take up the DNA and start producing the target protein.

Lyophilized and ground plant material can be used as a means of protein delivery. Such a system has the potential to avoid a common obstacle to protein drug synthesis: expensive production and purification processes.


Daniell’s past work on ACE2 has proved fortunate in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACE2 receptor on the surface of human cells happens to also bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Other research groups have shown that injecting ACE2 can reduce viral load in severely infected people.


Meanwhile, another research effort by Daniell and colleague Hyun (Michel) Koo, a Pennsylvania-based dentist, involved developing a chewing gum infused with a protein produced by plants to destroy dental plaque.

Combining his new insights into ACE2 with the technique, Daniell wondered whether the gum infused with the plant-produced ACE2 protein could neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in the mouth.


Chewing gum containing ACE2 protein may reduce COVID-19 transmission
Image via Molecular Therapy, 2021, doi:10.1016/j.ymthe.2021.11.008.



To find out, he contacted Ronald Collman of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Collman is a virologist and pulmonary and critical care physician whose team has been collecting blood, nasal swabs, saliva and other biological samples from COVID-19 patients for scientific research since the early stages of the pandemic .


Collman said, “Daniell contacted me and asked if we had samples to test his method, what samples would be suitable for testing, and if we could internally verify SARS-CoV-2 virus levels in saliva samples. Cross-university collaboration based on microbiome research.”


To test the gum, the team got plants to produce the ACE2 protein, paired it with another compound that enables the protein to cross the mucosal barrier and facilitate binding, and integrated the resulting plant material into a cinnamon-flavored gum in the film.

Samples obtained from nasopharyngeal swabs from COVID-19-positive patients were incubated with the gum, and the findings showed that ACE2 present in the gum can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus.


Following these initial results, the authors conducted other investigations, such as genetic modification of viruses that were less pathogenic than SARS-CoV-2 to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

They observed that the gum largely prevented the virus or viral particles from entering cells by blocking ACE2 receptors on the cell surface or directly binding to the spike protein .


Finally, the authors exposed saliva samples from COVID-19 patients to the ACE2-containing chewing gum and found that SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels dropped so sharply that they were nearly undetectable.


They are currently working to obtain permission to conduct clinical trials to assess whether the method is safe and effective when tested in people infected with SARS-CoV-2.


“Daniell’s method of making proteins in plants and taking them orally is inexpensive and hopefully scalable; it’s really nice,” Collman said.


While the research is still in the early stages of development, if clinical trials confirm that the gum is safe and effective, it could potentially be used in patients with unknown infection status, or even during dental exams where masks must be removed to reduce Likelihood of passing the virus to caregivers.


“We’re already using masks and other physical barriers to reduce the chance of transmission,” Daniell said. “This gum can be an additional tool in this fight.”





Chewing gum containing ACE2 protein may reduce COVID-19 transmission

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