RESEARCHERS from the University of Otago in New Zealand have discovered potential target points on the SARS-CoV-2 genome, which may contribute to future treatments for the virus.
The researchers used their skills in microRNA (miRNA) from their usual study of anti-cancer CAR T cells, to examine previously unrecognized weak points on the SARS-CoV-2 genome that could be used to destroy the virus or help create new vaccines. These weak points are target sites recognized by host miRNA – a nucleic acid-based ‘immune system’ operating in all of our body’s cells.
One target site on SARS-CoV-2 matches an abundant miRNA (miR197) present at very high levels in patients with cardiovascular complications or with respiratory viral infections. The miR197 binding site on SARS-2 had been independently mutated nearly 40 times since March this year. This mutation is now present in more than 75 percent of SARS-CoV-2 global isolates. The researchers, however, say that it’s still early to say if such mutations will help the virus, or are simply neutral hitchhikers that confer no advantage to the virus.