Scientists at Yale University, the Broad Institute of MIT, and Harvard have observed hundreds of millions of cells that have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 and MERS viruses. While studying the cells, they have found dozens of genes that are helpful and harmful both. One set of genes helps the virus replicate in cells and the other set of genes prevents the virus from infecting the cells. The pro-viral and antiviral roles of the genes will assist the experts to come up with new treatments to fight COVID19. The findings of the study have been released in the journal Cell. Experts have earlier revealed how the SARS-CoV-2 virus invades the cell but it has not been known why some cells are more prone to the virus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus causes COVID19 disease. Scientists have said that determining the genetics of host cells’ inclination towards the virus might explain why some people have few symptoms and why some people become severely ill or face death.
In the study, experts have performed a genome-wide screening of a line of green monkey cells. These cells are more likely to die after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus as compared to human cell lines. Experts have been able to track the interaction of cells and the virus both in the screening for the first time. The screens have verified that the ACE-2 gene, which identifies the receptor on the surface of the cell, helps in the growth of the virus. The process has found two new proviral protein complexes, which assist the virus, and a third protein, which prevents the viral infection. SWI/SNF complex, which twists genes on and off, and another complex called HMGB1, which performs myriad functions have been linked to a higher rate of cell death after infection.
Experts have revealed a small molecule drug, which has been able to reduce the functions of two identified genes. They have found that the drug has been able to increase the survival rate of the cells, which have been infected in the lab. They have discovered another protein complex called histone B3 as well, which controls the expression of genes within the cell nucleus. It provides a protective cover and reduces the ability of the virus to infect and kill the cells. Scientists have said that these genes with different roles might allow them to identify people who are at a greater risk of dying due to COVID19. The authors of the study have said the new findings might help in identifying the drugs as well, which will be detrimental in treating patients. Other experts have said that these findings will help prepare for other outbreaks in the future.