Connecting SARS-CoV-2 Dots: Pinpointing Targeted Cells and Exploring Interferon’s Intriguing Role

April 24, 2020 | Biotechnology

Reading time: 4 minutes

Fresh from GEN – Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, here is an interesting Bio Technology article for you:

Given the dearth of therapeutics and vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a pressing need for understanding as much about the virus as possible. Despite the enormous surge in research on SARS-CoV-2, and researchers working around the clock to place as many puzzle pieces as possible, many unanswered questions remain. A team from MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital have connected some of the dots, pinpointing the likely cell types the virus infects. And, showing that one of the body’s main defenses against viral infections may actually help the virus infect those very cells.

The study, published as the paper, “SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 is an interferon-stimulated gene in human airway epithelial cells and is detected in specific cell subsets across tissues,” in Cell will help focus efforts to understand what SARS-COV-2 does in the body, why some people are more susceptible, and how best to search for treatments, the researchers said.

The team, led by Jose Ordovas-Montanes, PhD and Alex Shalek, PhD, knew from previous research that the SARS-CoV- 2 spike (S)-protein binds ACE2, and in concert with host proteases—principally TMPRSS2—promotes cellular entry. However, the cell subsets targeted by the virus in host tissues, and the factors that regulate ACE2 expression, remained unknown. Here, the team explored multiple aspects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, to uncover putative targets of SARS-CoV-2 among tissue-resident cell subsets, to discover the role of ACE2 in infection, and suggest why COVID-19 varies so widely between patients.

Ordovas-Montanes and Shalek had been studying different cell types throughout the human respiratory system and intestine. They also had gathered data from primates and mice. In February, when news of the COVID-19 outbreak hit, they began exploring these data in the context o... Read the complete article at the GEN Blog.

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