(ORDO NEWS) — Viruses come in many shapes and sizes and use different attack mechanisms when they infect humans or animals. But all viruses have one thing in common: they can only cause harm by multiplying inside the cells of the host organism. Researchers at Colorado State University decided to study in detail all aspects of the viral attack, including how they use the mechanisms of protein production in the host to reproduce. This was announced in a press release for EurekAlert.
For the first time, specialists were able to show the process of a virus “attack” on the host organism at the level of one molecule. This behavior was subsequently reproduced in computational models.
Viruses do not encode their own replication mechanism and therefore use host cell division, “hijacking” ribosomes, which are needed to make proteins. Many viral genomes contain special RNA structures, internal ribosome entry regions (IRES), which hijack the host’s ribosomes, causing them to produce viral proteins.
Researchers have invented a biosensor that glows blue when a virus is transmitted, and green when living cells normally operate. This allows in real-time to distinguish between healthy processes inside the body and viral. The device secretes parts of the virus that interact with the host’s matter.
In addition to studying the viral translation in healthy cells, the biosensor allows one to visualize the effects of various types of stress, which cells are exposed to during a virus attack, as well as highlight the foci of disease activity. Observations have confirmed the quite fair assumption that viruses move in the cells of the infected organism in the centers of stress.
The researchers hope that the combination of unique biochemical sensors and detailed computational analyzes will provide powerful tools to understand, predict, and control how future drugs might work to inhibit the translation of viruses without affecting the host.
Solving urgent problems
The authors of the project are targeting COVID-19. Although SARS-CoV-2 does not contain IRES, the biosensor is modular and can easily include portions of SARS-CoV-2 to track how it hijacks the host’s replication mechanisms during infection, according to study co-author Amanda Koch.
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