Scientists begin work on COVID-19 virus RNA
Scientists have begun work on methods to study virus RNA at a single-cell level in order to better understand COVID-19 reproduction and other viral processes. The pandemic has given rise to many important questions around virus spreading, reproduction and immunological responses. Also, key answers will be needed on the ability of viruses to evade treatment or vaccine approaches. In one of the attempts to find answers to these conundrums, scientists at Rutgers University have a new project dedicated to studying RNA at a single-cell level. Their tool, dubbed surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) helps to show subtle changes on the microscopic level by detecting alterations in light levels.
The Rutgers team took DNA specific to the influenza A virus and attached it to gold nanoparticles. SERS gave off a strong signal in the presence of flu RNA. But as the virus mutated, the signals got weaker, thus flagging changes in the composition of the virus. The team have highlighted the need for research on virus behaviour in individuals, rather than only on population groups. Studying the interaction of the virus with cells and individuals will help to inform future treatment pathways and the production of vaccine candidates. Funding is now a priority for the SERS project and research is being carried out on what other key areas of the SARS-CoV-2 genome could be targeted using the new tool.