New York: A team of scientists led by Indian-origin Sumit K Chanda in the US has identified a set of human genes that could fight SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes Covid-19. In a paper published in the journal 'Molecular Cell', Chanda said that their team has gained new insights into how the virus exploits human cells after invading them.
"We are still searching for its Achille's Heel so that we can develop optimal antivirals," Chanda said.
According to the paper, the genes in question are related to interferons which are the body's frontline virus fighters.
Shortly after the pandemic broke out, clinicians had found that a weak interferon response to SARS-CoV-2 infection resulted in some of the more severe cases of Covid-19. This finding led Chanda's team to search for the human genes that are triggered by interferons. These genes are known as interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), which acts to limit the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
"We found that 65 ISGs controlled SARS-CoV-2 infection, including some that inhibited the virus's ability to enter cells, some that suppressed manufacture of the RNA that is the virus's lifeblood and a cluster of genes that inhibited assembly of the virus," Chanda explained. "What was also of great interest was the fact that some of the ISGs exhibited control across unrelated viruses, such as seasonal flu, West Nile and HIV, which leads to AIDS".
The team discovered eight ISGs that inhibited both SARS-CoV-1 and CoV-2 replication in the subcellular compartment responsible for protein packaging. This means this site is vulnerable and could be exploited to clear a viral infection.
"This is important information, but we still need to learn more about the biology of the virus and investigate if genetic variability within these ISGs correlates with Covid-19 severity," said Laura Martin-Sancho, a senior postdoctoral associate in the Chanda lab.
The researchers will now look at the biology of SARS-CoV-2 variants that continue to evolve, threatening vaccine efficacy.
Sumit K Chanda is the director of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Programme at Stanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
(Based on IANS story)