These receptors are often used in cancer immunotherapy. In cancer immunotherapy the cells are engineered to intercept cancer cells and destroy them.
In the case or coronavirus, the receptors would be modified to recognise the virus so it can kill off virus-affected tissues.
Scientists say it would be an effective way to treat patients without them having to attend a hospital.
Lead author Dr Anthony Tanoto Tan, senior research fellow at the Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases program, said: “This therapy is classically used in cancer treatment, where the lymphocytes of the patients are redirected to find and kill the cancer cells,
“However, its potential against infectious diseases and specific viruses has not been explored.”
For the commentary, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the experts explained that therapy involves extracting immune cells, called T lymphocytes, from a coronavirus patient’s blood stream.
Next, researchers identify T cell receptors (TCR), which are enclosed in the membrane of the cell, and chimeric antigen receptors (CAR).
CARs are laboratory-generated artificial T-cell receptors.
Dr Tan said: “We argue that some infections, such as HIV and [Hepatitis B virus], can be a perfect target for this therapy,
“Especially if lymphocytes are engineered using an approach that keeps them active for a limited amount of time to minimise potential side effects”
Researchers say that this type of treatment is too costly for most viruses due to the highly specialised medical staff and equipment required.
There is also no set timeline for how long the treatment would last, so it could be indefinitely.
The least expensive and most compelling choice it to use a mix of antivirals and CAR/TCR T cells to kill the virus-infected cells.
This treatment is effective against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a virus related to the coronavirus.
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“We demonstrated that T cells can be redirected to target the coronavirus responsible for SARS,” said senior author Dr Antonio Bertoletti from the Duke-NUS’ EID program.
“Our team has now begun exploring the potential of CAR/TCR T cell immunotherapy for controlling the COVID-19-causing virus, SARS-CoV-2, and protecting patients from its symptomatic effects.”
The coronavirus has infected 2,561,044 people and caused 177,200 deaths Worldwide.
In the UK, 129,044 people have tested positive for the novel virus and 17,337 have died from coronavirus-related complications.
The US is the most affected county with more than 800,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 43,000 deaths.
Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and professor of medicine at Columbia University, is leading research to screen antiviral drug compounds for new coronavirus treatments.
Of the precedence and treatment of the virus he said: “We know these viruses reside in animal species, and surely another one will emerge.
“We need to find permanent solutions to treating them, and should not repeat the mistake that once an epidemic wanes, interest and political will and funding also wanes.”
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