UT Southwestern Medical Center data scientists analyzing genetic sequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus have identified potential vulnerabilities that could help in vaccine development and further study of the infectious disease now spreading worldwide.
Specifically, the researchers point to areas where the viral genome encodes T cell and B cell antigens that could stimulate a response from the human immune system. They then compared those against the immunological maps of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) gathered in those coronavirus outbreaks. The resulting analysis was posted to the bioRxiv preprint server this week prior to peer review.
"Few studies have reported on the immunological features of this new coronavirus. Our analyses in this respect could serve as a reference resource for immunological studies and for potential therapeutics and vaccine development," says Yang Xie, Ph.D., director of the Quantitative Biomedical Research Center (QBRC) and a professor of population and data sciences and in the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics. Scientists in China made the virus sequences available in January.
Although mutations in this virus' genome are still very limited, they locate in genomic regions whose homologous counterparts in SARS and MERS are proved to be highly mutated, indicating these regions are potential mutation hot spots to watch out for." Tao Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of population and data sciences and an investigator in the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense Related Stories
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