Researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center have most likely found important information about how the coronavirus multiplies in the human body. The research was published in the scientific journal on Thursday Science.
We don’t yet know exactly how the coronavirus multiplies in the cells of infected persons. Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) have most likely found a missing link in understanding this process. This discovery may contribute to the development of a drug against COVID-19.
How does the coronavirus multiply?
Before you get sick with the coronavirus, the virus must first infect a lot of cells in your body, this requires a lot of virus particles. But a virus cannot independently make new virus particles at all. A virus always needs cells from an organism for this. The coronavirus needs human cells to multiply.
Researchers at the LUMC are trying to understand exactly how this multiplication works. Every new virus particle contains genetic information, so it is important for a virus that a lot of genetic information is copied. Eric Snijder, professor of molecular virology at LUMC, explains that more than ten years ago, with viruses that resemble this coronavirus, they found that the multiplication of genetic information of these types of viruses does not just take place anywhere in the infected cell.
Snijder explains that the virus ‘rebuilds’ the infected cell and makes separate compartments in which the genetic material is multiplied. These compartments are a bit like bubbles and probably offer the virus two advantages. First, the conditions within the compartments are likely to be favorable for the multiplication of genetic information, making copying easier and faster. In addition, the compartments may ensure that the immune system is less likely to realize that something is going wrong and that a virus is multiplying in a cell.
What has been found?
However, a mystery still remained open. In order to make a new virus particle from genetic information, the genetic information must come from the compartment and be packed in the cell in a package of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Snijder explains that in the case of the coronavirus, they did not really know how the genetic information went out of the compartments, the compartments seemed completely closed and the wall of the compartments seemed impenetrable.
“Now, with the help of new techniques, we have found a passage in the outside of the compartments. This passage is very small 2 to 3 nanometers, but this is exactly large enough for the genetic information to be able to leave the compartment. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. “
According to Snijder, it is likely that genetic material does indeed leave the compartment via the passage found. “But, hard evidence is still lacking, we want to look further at that now. We also want to map the structure that forms the passage more precisely.”
Ultimately, this passage could also be a starting point for medication against COVID-19. “We expect that if you close this passage, the coronavirus will no longer be able to multiply.” According to Snijder, developing such a medicine is a long-term process. “There is now a lot of cooperation with other universities and pharmaceutical companies to ultimately develop effective medicines.”