How does the novel coronavirus break into your body's cells? What does it exactly do afterwards? And how does it mutate and why?
To find an answer to those questions, South Korea's Institute of Basic Science and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been "mapping out the virus".
When the novel coronavirus breaks into a cell in your body, it's RNA strand gets divided into millions of smaller strands of RNA. Other scientists had already worked out the RNA's genetic sequence, but they didn't know exactly where the active parts of the virus were located within the RNA chain.
The location of those active parts of the virus has finally been discovered and mapped by the Korean research team, which combined two innovative techniques to completely dissect the RNA.
"It works like a pair. First, the nanopore direct RNA sequencing directly analyzes the entire long viral RNA without going through the usual step-by-step process of cutting and converting RNA. The second technique, DNA nanoball sequencing can only read short fragments, but can analyze a large number of sequences with high accuracy."
These techniques led to another critical discovery.
The team, by examining the whole set of smaller RNA strands, came to discover numerous unknown modified small RNA strands.
"If RNA is like the English alphabet, modified RNA is like the French alphabet with little lines or dots hanging next to the letters. Chemical modification is one of virus' tactics to escape body's immune system."
The research found that at least 41 types of modification can occur.
The scientists published their research in the journal 'Cell' on Thursday.
By using this map of the virus, researchers around the world will hopefully be able to create more precise tests and ultimately, a more effective vaccine.
Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang News.