The main issue with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic has always been the various mutations. Someone could get COVID-19 and develop some sort of immunity, but then a new variant would come around and the immunity would be less effective. Scientists at the Pohang University of Science and Technology are working hard to develop a cure for all variants of COVID-19
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a member of the coronavirus family. In AP Biology, we learned about viruses and how they infect and replicate within host cells. We learned about how COVID-19 is a prime example of how a virus can cause disease in humans. The SARS-CoV-2 virus enters host cells by binding to a receptor called ACE2, which is found on the surface of cells in the respiratory tract and other organs. Once inside the host cell, the virus uses its own enzymes to replicate and produce more copies of itself. This can lead to the death of the host cell and the release of new virus particles, which can then go on to infect other cells. The immune system plays a crucial role in defending the body against viral infections such as COVID-19. When the body is infected with a virus, the immune system recognizes the virus as foreign and mounts an immune response to try to eliminate it. This can include the production of antibodies, the activation of immune cells such as T cells and B cells, and the release of inflammatory molecules.
The reason COVID-19 has been so infectious and is able to mutate so much is because of the ability of the virus to change structure. This structure change increases the strength of its interaction with hACE2 receptors. An hACE2 receptor is the human version of the Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, the enzyme that serves as the entry point for SARS-CoV-2. As we learned in AP bio, in order for a virus to enter the body, the antigen must bind to a receptor and then travel into the cell. SARS-CoV-2 binds to hACE2. First, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 produces the protein called, IgG. IgG binds to the spike protein on the SARS-CoV-2 cell and that IgG protein binds with the hACE2 receptors in human cells. This binding of IgG is what allows coronavirus to enter human cells.
Understanding this binding process has been key to developing cures for the virus. Most recently, a research team at Pohang University of Science has developed a revolutionary SARS-CoV-2 neutralizer that can adapt to mutations in the virus. This discovery is groundbreaking in the disease prevention world because the type of technology that is used for this specific example can be spread out across the field and used for other viruses. As Professor Seung Soo Oh described: “It is significant that we have developed the world’s first self-evolving neutralizer-developing platform that shows increasingly better performance with the occurrence of viral mutations.” He added, “We plan to develop it into a core technology that can respond to the next-generation pandemic viruses, such as influenza and Hantavirus.”
This neutralizer works by mimicking the interaction between the virus and the receptor, and than once that reaction is mimicked, its protein fragment and nucleic acids can stick to virus, preventing further interaction with the receptor, which eventually prevents the virus from entering the cells.
In all, a neutralizer that adapts with the virus in order to prevent infection and sickness is a groundbreaking discovery that could potentially change the way COVIS-19 (and viruses as a whole) are looked at.
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