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Home / India News / Scientists trace genes that aid and stem spread of Sars-CoV-2

Scientists trace genes that aid and stem spread of Sars-CoV-2

In the study, scientists snipped specific genes in cultured African green monkey cells – which are susceptible to Covid-19 – and infected those gene-edited cells with Sars-CoV-2 to identify the genes that were “pro viral” or “anti viral”.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2020 06:58 IST
Researchers also traced genes and pathways that assist the virus in replicating.
Researchers also traced genes and pathways that assist the virus in replicating. (AP)

Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, scientists have traced some of the genes that either aid or stem the spread of Sars-CoV-2, which causes the coronavirus disease, in cells that were infected with the virus.

The screening of such genes, researchers say, can help them understand how the pathogen replicates in the human body, and point them towards potential treatments and vaccines that can target specific genes and cellular processes to stop the virus in its tracks.

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“Identification of host factors essential for infection is critical to inform mechanisms of COVID-19 pathogenesis, reveal variation in host susceptibility, and identify novel host-directed therapies, which may have efficacy against current and future pandemic coronaviruses,” said a study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the US.

In the study, scientists snipped specific genes in cultured African green monkey cells – which are susceptible to Covid-19 – and infected those gene-edited cells with Sars-CoV-2 to identify the genes that were “pro viral” or “anti viral”.

The study, published as a preprint on BioRxiv on June 17, confirmed that the ACE2 receptor (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) and Cathepsin L – proteins that were already believed to be crucial for the coronavirus’s entry into a host cell and its fusion with it – aided the virus in causing the infection.

Researchers also traced genes and pathways that assist the virus in replicating. These include a group of proteins that help package the DNA – called the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex – and components of the TGF-β (Transforming Growth Factor- Beta) signaling pathway, a family of proteins that plays a critical role in the growth of cells and their development.

The study, published on June 17 and yet to be peer reviewed, also found proteins called HMGB1, which can help activate the immune system, as “proviral”.

Similarly, the study discovered that antiviral genes such as components in histones – proteins around which the DNA winds itself to fit into a cell nucleus – deterred the virus from replicating.

Scientists across the world are working round-the-clock to decode the workings of the Sars-Cov-2, but little is known about the pathogen’s ability to infect easily and its path of destruction in the human body. “Studying these will help us figure out how the cell is ‘trying’ to combat the virus,” John Doench, one of the authors of the study, wrote on Twitter last week.

“The genes and pathways identified here may explain this variation as disease susceptibility may positively correlate with expression of resistance genes [proviral genes] and negatively correlate with sensitization genes [antiviral] on the cellular, tissue, and organismal level,” the study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, said.

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