Phoenix-based TGen studies genes to determine COVID immunity, reaction
Dec 17, 2020, 4:45 AM
PHOENIX — The Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix has been studying microRNA to determine a person’s potential immunity to COVID-19.
The results, recently published in the journal mSphere, describe a molecule made from DNA — miR1307.
“We have found a switch that determines when certain genes in the virus are turned on or turned off, or to what degree they’re turned on or turned off,” said Nicholas Schork, Deputy Director of Quantitative Sciences at TGen.
Schork says our molecules could be dormant until they meet any disease, like the coronavirus.
“If we had not seen this microRNA involved in other viruses, we would have been more skeptical about its role the COVID outbreak,” Schork said.
Now, he is researching if reproducing these molecules will boost a person’s immune system.
“Some of these regulatory elements could stay dormant until there’s some kind of environmental insult or stimulus,” Schork explained. “In this case, the stimulus would be the virus.”
In past studies, miR1307 has been found to affect the severity of several types of cancer, lung disease and the flu, specifically the H1N1 influenza virus that caused a 2009 pandemic.
It was first discovered as a key regulatory agent in the Epstein-Barr virus, best known as the cause of infectious mononucleosis, TGen added in a news release.