The SLR14 RNA hairpin, developed by American scientists, activates the production of type I interferons in the body (the main instrument of the innate immune response) and protects against coronavirus infection. This is discussed in an article published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
The body’s first line of defense against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus depends on the work of the RIG-I receptors, which recognize the genetic material of the virus and trigger the production of type I interferons, signaling molecules that in turn promote the production of proteins that suppress viral replication. Interferon treatments have been shown to be effective in reducing deaths from COVID-19, but they remain very expensive.
Scientists at the Yale School of Medicine have proposed a cheaper alternative to interferon treatment: giving patients hairpins – elements of the secondary structure of RNA – that mimic the genetic material of the coronavirus and activate RIG-I receptors. Scientists have tested their new treatment approach in mice infected with coronavirus.
A single dose of SLR14 was sufficient to protect rodents from severe disease and death. When administered immediately after infection, the therapy was even more effective than interferon treatment.
Moreover, SLR14 also protected against new strains of the coronavirus, including the delta variant. In mice with weakened immunity, the drug was able to almost completely cleanse the body of the virus. According to the researchers, this will allow them to treat patients with weakened immunity, the effectiveness of existing vaccines for which is greatly reduced.