Sidra Medicine research identifies mutation-free spots within Covid-19 virus
April 28 2021 03:06 PM

Researchers at Sidra Medicine have identified spots within the novel coronavirus Sars?CoV2 that do not mutate; paving the way for future vaccine design that can address variants of the virus.

Dr Navaneeth Krishnamoorthy, a molecular biochemist along with Dr Khalid Fakhro, chief research officer at Sidra Medicine, developed models of mutations in the main protein of the Covid-19 virus. The project is part of Sidra Medicine's Precision Medicine Programme at addressing questions related to what spots of the Covid-19 virus do not mutate and whether it is possible to map them and use them to guide vaccine design.

Dr Krishnamoorthy, said, “It was fundamental that we addressed the question around mutation free spots, because genetic theory suggests that these spots are mostly conserved due to mutations that would be highly detrimental to the virus itself, i.e., they need to be conserved to ensure the virus can function properly.”

Dr Khalid Fakhro, chief research officer at Sidra Medicine said, "New mutations are bad in two ways, firstly, the virus may become more harmful and more efficient at invading its host and spreading, like the prevalent variants in the UK and South Africa. Second, the virus may change the shape of the site recognised by antibodies, thereby enabling the virus to evade the human immune response and continue spreading even in vaccinated individuals."

Dr Krishnamoorthy and Dr Fakhro spent several months analysing more than 19,000 mutations circulating worldwide in the Sars-CoV2 main viral protein to map the mutation 'coldspots'. They successfully identified a map of mutation 'coldspots' and concluded that these are ideal sites for targeting the coronavirus. Their findings were published by the international union of biochemistry and molecular biology, in their flagship journal, Life, giving it full attention on the April 2021 cover page.

Dr Krishnamoorthy continued: "It is a futuristic approach because we found conserved regional patterns near the mutation-free spots that can be targeted effectively now and in the future when similar viruses emerge. The identification and short list of these coldspots offers a new perspective to target the Sars?CoV2 while avoiding mutation?based drug resistance. The study pinpointed optimum target sites and opened new avenues for the design of mutation-free antivirals."

Dr Fakhro added, "The fight against Covid-19 is constantly evolving. To resolve this global healthcare challenge in such critical times, we have to understand the viral defense mechanism of such mutations; our findings further this understanding and align with Sidra Medicine's ambition to deliver precision medicine."

Last updated: April 28 2021 07:15 PM

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