TGen identifies gene that could explain disparity in COVID-19 effects

December 16, 2020

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Dec. 15, 2020 -- The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, has identified a specific genetic target that could help explain the tremendous variation in how sick those infected with COVID-19 become.

The study results, recently published in the journal mSphere, describe a molecule made from DNA -- miR1307 -- as a potential dimmer switch that may influence the severity of the disease; why some infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have mild or even no symptoms, while others become seriously ill or die.

Led by Nicholas Schork, Ph.D., a Distinguished Professor and Director of TGen's Quantitative Medicine and Systems Biology Division, researchers identified miR1307 by comparing the genetic elements of SARS-Cov-2 with seven other human coronaviruses, some of which merely cause common colds. In addition, they examined the genomes of coronavirus strains known to infect bats, pigs, pangolins, ferrets, civets and chickens.

"We pursued a systematic gene-by-gene comparative analysis, investigating how and to what extent the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence differs from other well-characterized human and animal coronavirus genomes," Dr. Schork said. "Our study results will allow the development of models of how the virus and its hosts interact, enhancing our understanding of the disease-causing mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 and how to exploit both viral and host therapeutic targets."

Study results suggest that miR1307 serves as a switch that turns various genes within the virus on or off, potentially making the disease more or less harmful to patients by regulating, for example, how fast or slow the virus replicates. In past studies, miR1307 has been found to affect the severity of several types of cancer, lung disease and the flu, specifically the H1N1 influenza virus that caused a 2009 pandemic. It was first discovered as a key regulatory agent in the Epstein-Barr virus, best known as the cause of infectious mononucleosis.

According to Dr. Schork, the study results also provide the basis for additional investigations, such as designing vaccines based on proteins or RNA, developing specific genetic markers for community disease monitoring, and tracing COVID-19 from one species to another.
-end-
Funding for this study was provided by National Science Foundation (RAPID grant # 2031819). Computing infrastructure was provided by Dell Technologies.

The study -- Conserved Genomic Terminals of SARS-CoV-2 as Coevolving Functional Elements and Potential Therapeutic Targets -- was published Nov. 27 in mSphere.

About TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based nonprofit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results. TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases: CityofHope.org. This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases through cutting-edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and complex rare diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: tgen.org. Follow TGen on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

Media Contact:

Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
syozwiak@tgen.org

The Translational Genomics Research Institute

Related Virus Articles from Brightsurf:

Researchers develop virus live stream to study virus infection
Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute and Utrecht University developed an advanced technique that makes it possible to monitor a virus infection live.

Will the COVID-19 virus become endemic?
A new article in the journal Science by Columbia Mailman School researchers Jeffrey Shaman and Marta Galanti explores the potential for the COVID-19 virus to become endemic, a regular feature producing recurring outbreaks in humans.

Smart virus
HSE University researchers have found microRNA molecules that are potentially capable of repressing the replication of human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 - The virus and the vasculature
In severe cases of COVID-19, the infection can lead to obstruction of the blood vessels in the lung, heart and kidneys.

Lab-made virus mimics COVID-19 virus
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a virus in the lab that infects cells and interacts with antibodies just like the COVID-19 virus, but lacks the ability to cause severe disease.

Virus prevalence associated with habitat
Levels of virus infection in lobsters seem to be related to habitat and other species, new studies of Caribbean marine protected areas have shown.

Herpes virus decoded
The genome of the herpes simplex virus 1 was decoded using new methods.

A new biosensor for the COVID-19 virus
A team of researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and Zurich University Hospital has succeeded in developing a novel sensor for detecting the new coronavirus.

How at risk are you of getting a virus on an airplane?
New 'CALM' model on passenger movement developed using Frontera supercomputer.

Virus multiplication in 3D
Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies.

Read More: Virus News and Virus Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.