Scientists decode how coronavirus damages lung cells within hours

PTI, Jan 31, 2021, 4:36 PM IST

Boston: Following months of interdisciplinary research assessing tens of thousands of lung cells infected with the novel coronavirus, scientists have created one of the most comprehensive maps to date of the molecular activities that are triggered inside these cells at the onset of the viral infection, an advance that may lead to the development of new drugs to combat COVID-19.

From their analysis, the scientists, including those from Boston University in the US, discovered close to 18 existing drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that could potentially be repurposed to combat COVID-19 soon after a person becomes infected.

They said five of these drugs could reduce the spread of the coronavirus in human lung cells by more than 90 per cent.

In the research, published in the journal Molecular Cell, the scientists simultaneously infected tens of thousands of lab-grown human lung cells with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and tracked what happens in these cells during the moments after infection.

They said these engineered cells are not completely identical to the living, breathing cells inside our bodies, but are the “closest thing to it.”

“What makes this research unusual is that we looked at very early time points [of infection], at just one hour after the virus infects lung cells. It was scary to see that the virus already starts to damage the cells so early during infection,” said study co-author and virologist Elke Muhlberger from Boston University (BU).

According to the researchers, “the virus does wholesale remodeling of the lung cells.”

“It’s amazing the degree to which the virus commandeers the cells it infects,” said Andrew Emili, another co-author of the study from BU.

Since viruses cannot replicate themselves, they hijack the host cell machinery to make copies of its genetic material.

In the study, the scientists found that when SARS-CoV-2 takes over, it completely changes the cells’ metabolic processes.

The virus even damages the cells’ nuclear membranes within three to six hours after infection, which the team said was very surprising.

In contrast, “cells infected with the deadly Ebola virus don’t show any obvious structural changes at these early time points of infection, and even at late stages of infection, the nuclear membrane is still intact,” Muhlberger said.

The scientists explained that the cell’s nuclear membrane surrounds the nucleus, which holds the majority of the genetic information, and controls and regulates normal cellular functions.

With the nucleus compromised by the coronavirus, they said “things rapidly take a bad turn for the entire cell.”

The lung cells — which normally play a role in maintaining the essential gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that occurs when we breathe — die under this siege, the study noted.

According to the researchers, the cells also emit distress signals which boost inflammation as they die, triggering a cascade of biological activity that accelerates more cell death.

This eventually leads to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and lung failure, they explained.

“I couldn’t have predicted a lot of these pathways, most of them were news to me. That’s why our [experimental] model is so valuable,” said Andrew Wilson, one of the study’s senior authors.

Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.

Top News

Mukesh Ambani draws nil salary for second year in row

Taxman from Punjab on green mission; grows urban forests, vertical gardens

23-yo stabs friend for not buying beer for him in B’luru

Three women killed in stampede outside Khatu Shyam temple in Rajasthan’s Sikar

“Orange Alert” for coastal areas; Fishermen warned not to venture into sea

Puttur: Teenager’s death due to fall – Father of the boy requests comprehensive probe

Money laundering case: ED to produce Sanjay Raut before special court in Mumbai

Related Articles More

‘Heal in India’: Govt plans interpreters, special desks at 10 airports for ease of overseas patients

Scientists restore cell, organ function in pigs after death

Do I have COVID or hay fever? Here’s how to tell

What is ‘normal’ baby sleep? How evolutionary clues, not cultural expectations, can help new parents

Spain leads Europe in monkeypox, struggles to check spread


NEWS BULLETIN 08-08-2022

Commonwealth Games medal winner Gururaj Poojari Grand welcome in Udupi

Mysuru Dasara 2022: Gajapayana flagged off from Nagarahole National Park

Road Covers Flood water at teerthahalli

Health, Earth, & We Can All Be Well With Natural Fertilizer |

Latest Additions

Mukesh Ambani draws nil salary for second year in row

Rajya Sabha to bid farewell to Chairman Naidu

Congress slams ED summons to party leader Mallikarjun Kharge

Taxman from Punjab on green mission; grows urban forests, vertical gardens

23-yo stabs friend for not buying beer for him in B’luru

Thanks for visiting Udayavani

You seem to have an Ad Blocker on.
To continue reading, please turn it off or whitelist Udayavani.