Emerging topic: The COVID-19 pandemic
With the outbreak of the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the HIRI immediately began researching the process of infection and disease development. HIRI scientists are looking for potential weaknesses where, either infection can be prevented or stopped at an early stage. Their ultimate goal is to develop drugs for this and future pandemics.
THE SEARCH FOR NEW PATHS
The novel coronavirus invades an organism - from that moment on the organism serves as a "host". The virus then uses the host organism to multiply and causes the symptoms of COVID-19 (including fever, cough, exhaustion). In order to understand these processes, research at HIRI, together with German and international cooperation partners, uses the latest technologies.
Firstly, the researchers look at how the novel coronavirus multiplies in the host. To do this, SARS-CoV-2 uses a strategy called "ribosomal frameshifting". This method allows the virus, with its limited set of genetic information, to produce a much larger number of protein building blocks and thus establish itself and multiply in host cells. HIRI scientist Neva Caliskan and her research group are working hard to identify the key interaction partners during replication.
HIRI group leader Emmanuel Saliba studies cells at an individual level. With the technology of "single-cell RNA sequencing", the cell infection process of an infected person can be traced in unprecedentedly high resolution. One step at a time, a series of maps is being created. With these maps, it is possible to observe how different RNAs are created, used and degraded in a single cell at a specific time.
Other research groups at HIRI are deciphering the interface between Sars-CoV-2 and its host. They contribute their individual expertise to the joint research work.
RENDERING THE VIRUS HARMLESS
A promising approach for rapidly developing a cure for COVID-19 and many other diseases are mRNA vaccines. More about the advantages and possible applications of these innovative vaccines and the current state of research is available in the following interviews and in the video interview with Professor Jörg Vogel at the beginning of the page.
Researchers at the HIRI are highly demanded interview partners on the topic of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and provide assessments of the situation. Here you can find selected articles:
Further information on SARS-CoV-2 and the research efforts undertaken by our parent center, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research can be found here.
"We need to fully understand the course of the infection as well as the ensuing host response to help healthcare professionals to treat high-risk patients. The analysis of virus-host interactions on the single-cell level could be key, it would allow us to pinpoint molecular factors and cellular pathways for prioritizing drug targets."
Jörg Vogel, in his LifeTime COVID-19 interview read more
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