By: Sophia Odunsi ’24
COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, is a deadly virus that attacks the respiratory system. Scientists around the world are working to find a vaccine for this illness. By using the virus’ RNA against itself, researchers believe they have made a breakthrough.
Genome, RNA, and Ribosomes
The SARS-CoV2 genome lives within the “host cell” (the cell it takes over), and provides networks for the RNA. The genome’s different parts and functions create a new virus structure, which changes the virus’ lifespan and ultimately causes diseases. The genome also gives instructions to ribosomes. After the ribosomes receive their instructions, the RNA then tells the ribosomes to start and stop. The RNA essentially is what makes a virus a virus and works like human DNA. The RNA is also very big, especially in coronaviruses. As Dr. Omer Ziv from the University of Cambridge at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute states, “The RNA genome of coronaviruses is about three times bigger than an average viral RNA genome — it’s huge.”
How does this relate to COVID-19?
When the virus invades the cell, it causes the ribosomes to misbehave. For example, the ribosomes would only listen to the RNA 50% of the time when the virus is present. Researchers believe that the virus creates new proteins that manipulate the ribosomes. Dr. Lyudmila Shalamova, an analyst at Justus-Liebig University in Germany, says, “we can monitor these interactions[between the proteins] as they occur during early SARS-CoV-2 replication.” As a result of monitoring these proteins’ interactions, scientists can create a drug that attacks the virus’ RNA.
COVID-19 researchers believe that targeting the virus’ RNA can lead to a significant discovery in finding a vaccine and understanding how to treat SARS-CoV2. Hopefully, these recent discoveries can lead to the end of the pandemic.
University of Cambridge. “Discovery of shape of the SARS-CoV-2 genome after infection could inform new COVID-19 treatments.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201105134515.htm>.