UAE: University researchers continue with laboratory experiments to find Covid-19 treatment

Research targets the main viral material of the coronavirus through drug inhibitors.

Representational image. (Reuters file)
Representational image. (Reuters file)

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Thu 31 Mar 2022, 1:35 PM

A group of researchers from various universities in Abu Dhabi has continued to conduct laboratory experiments for the research project that aims to find a treatment for Covid-19. This is by targeting the main viral material of the virus through drug inhibitors, which helps in this treatment.

The researchers are from the College of Pharmacy at Al Ain University, UAE University and NYU-Abu Dhabi.

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ghattas, head of the research team, Deputy Dean of the College of Pharmacy at Al Ain University, said the idea of the project began after the pandemic, under the guidance of the university’s senior management to study treatment methods for the manufacture of a “drug” compound that contributes to finding a cure for Coronavirus.

“We were helped in this project by a scientific study published in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, which includes information about the enzyme specific to the Corona virus, which describes the work of the virus and its life cycle in the body. And converting these proteins into a new form that produces new enzymes to make the virus multiply in the body and become more dangerous and also spread an infection to another body,” he said.

Dr Ghattas explained that the study focused from the outset on finding an organic compound that inhibits the action of the enzyme to reduce the effects of infection and make the effects at a minimum of symptoms that affect the person with this virus, by conducting experiments to discover small organic compounds capable of inhibiting one of the crucial enzymes in the infection cycle for this Virus /MPRO/ by using a modern and modern approach in which multiple computer tools are mixed with laboratory experiments.

He pointed out that due to the importance of the study, a research group was formed of seven university professors and specialists with experience in this field, and the team consists of three members from Al Ain University, Dr. Nour Atatreh, the University’s Delegated Director, and himself in his capacity as the team leader and a master’s student Radwa Mahgoub to be tasked with drug design through the laboratories and computer tools available at the university. From the UAE University, there are three female academics, including Professor Dr. Bassam Al-Ali, “the winner of the Khalifa Educational Award”, Dr. Fida Muhammad from the College of Medicine, and Dr. Sheikha Al Neyadi from the College of Science, who will conduct experiments on the proposed compounds and modify them according to the study plan is to develop it and increase its effectiveness to contribute to the inhibition of the enzyme.

The team also includes Dr. Wael Rabeh, who provides us with the target enzyme through laboratories at New York University Abu Dhabi. This research team is considered complete and can move through the study stages without obstacles.

During the laboratory studies, the research team used a tool called Docking, which works to find compounds and combine them with the enzyme through a computer process, extract the results of the interactions, and inhibit the enzyme’s function to reduce its ability to activate the protons of the virus. After the experiments to 90 compounds.

The research team at the UAE University, led by Dr. Bassam, has tested nearly half of these compounds so far, and during this stage, a group of compounds that can inhibit the action of the enzyme were reached. These compounds are small in size and not very effective, but are considered an added value to any research project in drug design, through Work to increase and develop its effectiveness through experiments and laboratory tests in order to reach results in a thoughtful and safe manner.

Dr. Ghattas explained that to achieve positive results, the research team is now working with three different research methods in order to discover and target drugs for this enzyme in particular because the study initially targeted the enzyme in one way, but the research team decided to add two different methods in parallel with the first and approved method in the study to increase the chances of finding compounds Be effective to inhibit this enzyme.

He pointed out the use of modern laboratories specialised in the field of study at Al Ain University, UAE University and New York Abu Dhabi, for example, a laboratory for molecular modeling, which consists of high-speed computer devices and has a high capacity to help us know and invest this compound through 3D and use these modern computer tools we have in finding the compounds that Contribute to the treatment of this virus.


The head of the research team said: “We are now working on the second stage called the “Lead Optimization” stage, because we have reached two promising compounds that the research team is excited about, and Dr. Nizar Al-Bataineh from Al Ain University has recently joined us at this stage with the aim of helping us through his research experience in changing Or introducing modifications to the approved compounds from the first stage to increase their effectiveness in order to move to the next stage, which is the stage of animal experimentation.”

Dr. Ghattas stressed: “Our goal is to strengthen the pharmaceutical industry to be one of the most important sources of economic returns in the country, based on scientific research, by discovering a safe and effective treatment, as well as obtaining a patent for the treatment.”

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