The Scientists Taking Atomic-Level Pictures Of The Coronavirus

Source: James Conca, Forbes, April 14, 2020

The novel coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes named coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is sweeping across the planet. It packs an outer armament of 27 specialized proteins, each one having a unique and incredibly complex 3-dimensional structure that helps the virus infect humans, replicate itself by the billions, and spread throughout the host and our society.

As represented in this image, the virus’ surface, or envelope, is studded with these proteins that are used, among other things, to attach to host cells.

Fortunately, those 27 proteins present scientists with 27 targets and 27 potential opportunities to stop the virus. 

Even before the word “coronavirus” inserted itself into the nation’s vocabulary, a national group of scientists jumped into the effort to start revealing those protein structures, structures that hold the keys to vaccines and treatments.

Scientist Garry Buchko at PNNL in Richland, Washington is part of this group. Buchko, who has a joint appointment at Washington State University’s School of Molecular Biosciences, also collaborates with scientists at the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID) to look for any sign of the virus’ weakness that scientists can use to mess with the virus’s inner workings.Most Popular In: Energy

Creating atomic-level pictures of these protein structures is the first crucial step in achieving this.

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