COVID-19 has been a part of life for over three years now. Throughout this time, new variants arose from this viral respiratory disease caused by a SARS-associated coronavirus” (WHC 1). This October, scientists at Boston University created a new variant of SARS-CoV-2. They combined different features of pre-existing strains. The lab-made variant reminded people and caused them to question if the original COVID-19 was made in a lab and released or if it was natural. Controversy about this experiment grew, forcing the U.S. government to investigate if what these scientists were doing followed protocol. It turns out that they were trying to figure out how the Omicron BA.1 strain could “escape the protection provided by the immune system and vaccines”(Park 1). They did this by focusing on the Spike Protein, which “is located on the outside of a coronavirus and is how SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus) enters human cells”(UNMC 1). They hoped to figure out if the spike protein made Omicron defiant against the vaccine or a different part of the variant. Unfortunately, in the middle of their studies, the scientists accidentally created a very lethal variant to mice, which forced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to look into this case. Since the experiment was funded through the university and not the government, it was allowed to continue. This experiment concluded that spike protein in Omicron was the reason it was so resistant to the vaccine. Although what the scientists at Boston University were doing was important, what they created amid the experiment was highly dangerous and not worth the risk.
Connection to A.P. Biology
The immune system is a very complex space that is supposed to protect the human body from dangerous invaders. There are two types of immunity, Innate and Adaptive. Innate immunity is the body’s first response to foreign substances, and Adaptive develops after exposure to an unknown invader. The scientists questioned why Omicron, a variant of COVID-19, managed to avoid being destroyed in bodies that previously had the vaccine and developed adaptive immunity. But since learning that it was the Spike protein that mutated in Omicron, the human body saw it as a foreign invader, and adaptive immunity was of no use here.
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