According to the Times of San Diego, a study published on Thursday revealed researchers discovered how glycans (molecules that create sugary residue around edges of the spike protein) act as infection gateways for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The study, led by UCSD's Rommie Amaro, was published in Nature Chemistry.
"We essentially figured out how the spike actually opens and infects," Amaro told the Times. "We've unlocked an important secret of the spike in how it infects cells. Without this gate, the virus basically is rendered incapable of infection."
Amaro believes this discovery will create potential avenues for new therapeutics to stop SARS-CoV-2 infection.
If glycan gates could be "locked" in the closed position by pharmaceuticals, then the virus would be prevented from opening to entry and infection, according to the Times.
Researchers were actually able to watch simulations of the virus opening and closing on "Comet" at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD.
"We were actually able to watch the opening and closing," said Amaro. "That's one of the really cool things these simulations give you — the ability to see really detailed movies. When you watch them, you realize you're seeing something that we otherwise would have ignored."