Why is the coronavirus so successful at reproducing? Researchers at Johannes Kepler University are now providing part of the answer. Using state-of-the-art microscopy, a team headed by Peter Hinterdorfer from the Institute of Biophysics observed how the virus docks onto cells in the human body.
“The advantage of our method is that we can observe living samples. Normally, frozen samples are examined, on which the movement is no longer visible,” explains Hinterdorfer in the OÖN interview. The result: The proteins, which look like spikes and give the coronavirus (“Corona” is Latin for crown) its name, are tripartite and highly mobile.
“The virus can scan the surface of cells with these movable spikes and thus find docking points very accurately,” explains the study leader. Corona gets into the cell via these docking points and can thus multiply very quickly.
As soon as the virus has docked, the bond to the cell is also particularly strong. “This means that despite the movement in the body, they are less often torn away from the cell by the air or blood flow,” says Hinterdorfer.
Corona continues to keep JKU researchers busy: Director Rupert Langer and his staff from the Institute of Molecular Pathology are currently researching lung tissue from Covid-19 patients. The aim is to find tissue changes that are specific to a corona infection. The results are valuable for future treatment strategies.
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