Given that Science is the bridge to building a better and more consistent future through experience and scientific knowledge, we highlight an auspicious research project led by Professor Miguel Castanho, who runs the Laboratory of Physical Biochemistry of Drugs in the Lisbon Institute of Molecular Medicine.
The NOVIRUSES2BRAIN research project has been underway for a year, when the first steps were taken towards the goal of developing drugs capable of reaching the brain and fighting some viruses.
Rita Aroeira, researcher and project manager, comments on the future progress and expectations of this research, which is both ambitious and essential.
Just a year ago, NOVIRUSES2BRAIN was taking its first steps. The project “One size fits all“ unique drug to eradicate multiple viral species simultaneously from the central nervous system of co-infected individuals” - NOVIRUSES2BRAIN -, coordinated by Professor Miguel Castanho, professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon and head researcher at the João Lobo Antunes Institute of Molecular Medicine (iMM), aims to develop drugs that can reach the brain and inactivate some viruses, such as Dengue, Zika and HIV, avoiding their possible neurological effects.
When the project started in September 2019, some molecules capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and others with antiviral activity had already been discovered. Since then, these two types of molecules have been conjugated and some have been successful in getting the antiviral out of the bloodstream into the brain. The next steps in the research are to determine their activity against viruses in the brain and to evaluate the side effects (in and outside the brain).
Recently, results from other groups have demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2, identified as causing COVID-19, is also capable of invading the central nervous system and causing neurological damage. This has led the European Commission (responsible for project funding) to invite the research team to include SARS-CoV-2 in the target list of antivirals under development.
At a time when the expectations about scientific work are huge, it is worth remembering that it is also the duty of researchers to contribute to the improvement of the population's scientific culture, which will translate into a better receptivity to the adoption of scientifically supported public health measures. During the first year of the project, NOVIRUSES2BRAIN was present at the European Researchers’ Night, organized open days in the laboratory that enabled the visit of young students, went to secondary schools, participated in the science communication initiative PubhD Lisboa, where the researchers present their work in an informal conversation in a bar, and maintained a constant presence on social networks, in addition to collaborating with journalists on matters related to the project.
NOVIRUSES2BRAIN Project Manager