Scientists from the University of Southampton managed to identify the key features of the new type of coronavirus causing COVID-19 disease. Researchers developed the first model of the spike protein, which allows the virus to hide into the cell unnoticed, hiding itself.
While the fight against the new type of coronavirus, which has spread to the whole world and has caused the death of 89.931 people until now, it has been attempting to lead the treatment and vaccination practices by determining the characteristics of the virus. Scientists from the University of Southampton managed to uncover the key features of the new type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19.
Researchers have developed the model of spike protein, antibodies, and viral proteins that are the target of vaccine research, that go unnoticed by hiding inside the human cell. Spike protein is a special chemical component that allows the virus to ‘open the door’ of the human cell. The results of the research can provide very important information to scientists working in vaccine studies.
Spike protein hidden in sugar:
There are many spikes on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2. These spikes help cling to and enter the cells in the human body. Spikes are wrapped in sugar, also known as glycans, so viral proteins can be hidden from our body’s immune system. In the study by Professor Max Crispin and his team, the structure of glycans that covered the surface of a viral spike protein was examined with the help of equipment provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Scientists managed to map the glycan structure. In this way, important information was provided on how open the viral protein surfaces are to antibody access. This information is considered an important step for the vaccine. “The virus that hides itself inside the sugar is like a wolf in lamb’s skin,” said Crispin, saying that regardless of how much sugar, this coronavirus did not have as much protection as some other viruses.
For example, viruses that linger in a single host, such as HIV, have been found to constantly escape from the immune system and have no dense layer of sugar in the new type of coronavirus, although it has a dense glycan layer to protect against the immune system. This suggests that the new type of coronavirus may be a ‘hit / run’ virus, a virus that is constantly moving from one person to another. In addition, the less frequent glycan cover shows that our immune system has fewer obstacles to inactivate the virus through antibodies.