NAGOYA--Researchers here announced a quicker method of creating antibody-like proteins that capture the novel coronavirus than under current methods.

The proteins made by using the new technique have the potential to help develop antigen test kits that detect infections with high accuracy, according to the researchers at Nagoya University and other institutions.

Team members prepared 10 trillion kinds of synthetic proteins carrying random amino acid sequences.

They then attached the spike protein, which sticks out from the surface of the virus and infects human cells, to magnetic beads and dropped them into a sea of the candidate proteins.

The researchers used a magnet to “fish” for the beads, which captured multiple synthetic proteins that bound to the spike protein, and picked two that bonded more strongly to the target.

It took only four days to complete the process, while existing methods require two to three weeks, the researchers said.

Members of the team said the antibody-like proteins they created could be used to develop quality antigen test kits to check if samples taken from patients contain proteins unique to the novel coronavirus.

The antibody-like proteins may also contribute to the development of medicines to treat COVID-19.

“Using the two antibody-like proteins as a foothold, we want to find ones that bind more strongly to the spike protein with greater sensitivity,” said Hiroshi Murakami, a professor of biological chemistry at Nagoya University and a member of the team.

He said the new method can also be used to quickly respond to another outbreak of a new infectious disease.