Scientists created a non-infectious coronavirus for research

Scientists at Rockefeller University (USA) have created a genetic construct that contains coronavirus RNA but is not infectious. This was reported on October 15 on the institution’s website.

It is noted that the construct mimics almost all aspects of the life cycle of the virus.

“Their RNA contains all the information the virus needs to replicate and create its own copies, but it lacks instructions for creating the spiking proteins that allow the virus to enter and infect human cells,” the report said.

It is specified that once introduced into cells in vitro, the “virus” produces progeny that cannot spread to neighboring cells.

It is noted that replication systems have previously proved useful in developing drugs against other viruses, including hepatitis C.

As the scientists explain, the removal of the spike protein also poses a problem, as many current studies focus on this particular component of SARS-CoV-2. For example, it is the main target of monoclonal antibody therapy.

To get around this problem, the researchers created the spike protein separately; they obtained delivery particles – one-time viruses capable of delivering genetic material into cells, but unlike real coronavirus particles, their infectivity is limited to exactly one life cycle of the virus.

According to the university staff, their design can be used to study how the virus captures cell mechanisms and how it replicates.

It is noted that the development allows the identification of human proteins, without which the virus cannot reproduce. As a proof-of-concept, the scientists studied the effects of TMEM41B, a human protein previously thought to be essential for SARS-CoV-2 replication, finding that in its absence the virus does not multiply.

In addition, the construct can be used to test chemical libraries for drug compounds capable of blocking viral replication.