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Three-dimensional model against Zika

ANDRÉ GODOY / USP The three-dimensional structure of the NS5 protein has been likened to a hand, with a palm, thumb, and three fingersANDRÉ GODOY / USP

In the fight against the Zika virus, many research groups are studying NS5, the protein produced by the virus and primarily responsible for its replication once it has infected the cells. A group led by Glaucius Oliva, a physicist from the São Carlos Institute of Physics at the University of São Paulo (IFSC-USP) and coordinator at the Center for Research and Innovation in Biodiversity and Drug Discovery (CIBFAR), was able to produce crystals of the protein, revealing the three-dimensional structure of the molecule and the thousands of atoms that compose it with high precision (Nature Communications, March 27). With this structure identified, the researchers expect a race to discover how to prevent the protein from functioning and to produce a drug that could halt the disease after a mosquito bite or as soon as symptoms appear, or at least accelerate recovery and reduce damage. “We seek to develop drugs by modeling the molecules that interact with specific receptors,” says Oliva. CIBFAR is one of the centers that comprise the Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Centers (RIDC) funded by FAPESP.