Scientific Snapshots of March | EurekAlert! Science News

Scientific Snapshots of March |  EurekAlert!  Science News

IMAGE: This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 emerging from the surface of cells (blue / pink) grown in the laboratory. view more

Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH

Solving a genetic mystery at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, scientists are still working to understand how the new strain of coronavirus evolved and how it became so important more dangerous than other coronaviruses, with which humans have lived for millennia.

Virologists and epidemiologists around the world have speculated for months that a protein called ORF8 likely holds the answer, and a recent study by scientists at the Berkeley Lab helped confirm this hypothesis.

In an article published in mBio, lead author Russell Neches and colleagues show that ORF8 evolved from another coronavirus protein called ORF7a, and that both proteins have folds similar to those of a human antibody. This finding helps explain how the virus avoids immune detection and can escalate into severe infection in some hosts.

“By exploring the structural and the functional…

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