Date: April 22, 2020 (SD article)
Date: April 27, 2020 (Release of this Article)
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary of ScienceDaily: „Researchers have identified specific types of cells that appear to be the targets of the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus that is causing the Covid-19 pandemic.“
Method of Research
A team consisting of MIT, Ragon Institute of MGH, Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard researchers; as well as their colleagues from around the world; used a dataset which included hundreds of cell types from lungs, nasal passages and intestine.
Data has been gathered from large-scale studies around the world on thousands of human, non-human primate, and mouse cells. There, they used a single-cell RNA sequencing to determine which genes are turned on in a given cell type.
A dataset, which was built by Nyquist and its partners, allowed researchers to study potential roles for particular cells in a variety of infectious diseases.
Lastly, the researchers also had access to the Human Cell Atlas project.
The reason for chosing those organs was because of evidence which indicated that the virus can infect each of them. Then, they compared their results to the cell types from unaffected organs.
One of the researchers commented:
„Because we have this incredible repository of information, we were able to begin to look at what would be likely target cells for infection,“ Shalek says. „Even though these datasets weren’t designed specifically to study Covid, it’s hopefully given us a jump start on identifying some of the things that might be relevant there.“
- nasal passages: goblet secretory cells, which produce mucus (mucus is a slippery aqueous secretion), express RNAs for both of the proteins that SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect cells
- lungs: the RNA for these proteins were mainly found in cells called type II pneumocytes (explanation from the article: „These cells line the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs and are responsible for keeping them open.“)
- intestine: cells, called absorptive enterocytes (explanation from article: „[they] are responsible for the absorption of some nutrients“) , express these two proteins more than any other intestinal cell type
While this may not be the last discovery, it does provide a clearer picture of the diesease. And as Ordovas-Montanes said: „Now we can say with some level of confidence that these receptors are expressed on these specific cells in these tissues.“
The article goes on and informs about an experiment with the protein interferon which could be a possible weapon against the Coronavirus. However, it is probably not entirely safe:
„Because interferon has so many beneficial effects against viral infection, it is sometimes used to treat infections such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The findings of the MIT team suggest that interferon’s potential role in fighting Covid-19 may be complex. On one hand, it can stimulate genes that fight off infection or help cells survive damage, but on the other hand, it may provide extra targets that help the virus infect more cells.“
If you want to know more about it, the link to the ScienceDaily article is at the end of this article.
I try to be as objectively as possible while writing these articles about scientific findings (i.e. that all of the important information was mentioned). Since I’m not a journalist of any sort, and thus only know to some extent how to summarize scientific articles, some sentences may repeat both in my articles and the original ones or are just slightly changed. However, I’ll always link the original article at the end.