(ORDO NEWS) — The loss of smell and taste characteristic of the coronavirus disease may be due to the work of proteins that neutralize odorous substances in the mucus.
The work of the olfactory epithelium depends not only on receptors, but also on supporting cells. It is they who are affected by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, causing anosmia, a loss of smell, in many infected people. Recently, scientists took another step towards a deeper understanding of this process: researchers from 23andMe identified the genes that determine the development of anosmia in patients with Covid-19. This report was published in the journal Nature Genetics .
23andMe is perhaps the world’s most famous company offering genetic analysis services. Considering thousands of important “dots” on DNA – single nucleotide polymorphisms – allows you to assess the predisposition to various diseases, as well as better know your family history. Several million people have used 23andMe services.
The accumulated anonymized data became the basis for the new work carried out by Adam Auton and his colleagues. Scientists looked at the DNA of nearly 70,000 people who fell ill with Covid-19, including 47,000 who developed anosmia.
The comparison showed that an increased risk of loss of smell correlates with the state of the UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 genes located on the fourth chromosome.
These genes are active in the supporting cells of the olfactory epithelium, participating in the performance of one of the important functions – the metabolism of odorous substances. Once such molecules have elicited the desired response, they must be neutralized to allow the receptors to accept the new substances.
Such transformations catalyze the enzymes that encode UGT2A1 and UGT2A2. Apparently, some variants of these genes make them more sensitive to the action of SARS-CoV-2.
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