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Research led by Cleveland State University reveals how COVID-19 interacts with the human body

The insights gained by researchers could lead to improved antiviral treatments and better vaccines.

CLEVELAND — Editors Note: The video in the player above shows an unrelated story previously published.

New research from Cleveland State University could soon lead to improved antiviral treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 and similar viruses.

An article published this week in the American Society of Microbiology’s Journal of Virology explains how SARS-CoV-2m, the virus that causes COVID-19, interacts with the human body.

“We discovered a novel communication route between the SARS-CoV-2 virus and human lung cells,” said Dr. Barsanjit Mazumder, professor of molecular genetics at CSU’s Department of Biological Geological and Environmental Sciences and the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease . “This work showed how the COVID-19 virus uses a specific signal within its own RNA sequence in communication with the signal generated from human lung cells. The mechanistic insights about this communication may be crucial in developing the next-generation of mRNA vaccines and targeted therapeutic strategies against this virus.”  

According to a release from Cleveland State, the research team showed that communication between the spike (S) protein in the virus with the specific receptor on the surface of lung cells leads to the change in the expression of the viral genetic information inside the cells that may be important to what is known as “viral fitness,” or the “capacity of a virus to produce infectious progeny in a given environment.”

Abhijit Basu, Ph.D., senior staff scientist and postdoctoral research associate, and Anton A. Komar, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease joined Dr. Mazumder, who led the research.

Srinivasa Penumutchu, Ph.D. and Blanton S. Tolbert, Ph.D. in Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Chemistry, as well as Kien Nguyen Ph.D., Uri Mbonye, Ph.D. and Jonathan Karn, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, and director of the Case Center for AIDS Research at the CWRU School of Medicine, were also part of the project. 

“This work will have real-world ramifications and could change the trajectory of the research on SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Meredith Bond, Ph.D., CSU interim vice president of research and innovation and dean of the College of Sciences and Health Professions. “It reflects greatly on the expertise of CSU’s faculty, the strength of interdisciplinary intercollegiate collaboration and affirms Cleveland’s world-class stature for research and medical innovation.”

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