Indian-origin researcher at UBC creates history by conducting a breakthrough analysis on Omicron
In a first, an Indian-origin researcher created a molecular-level structural analysis of the Omicron variant spike protein. Marked as a breakthrough moment in the study of the novel coronavirus, this is a first of its kind research on the Variant of Concern in the world. Notably, the research has been published in the Science journal of the University of British Columbia (UBC). Read on to know more about this analysis.
Omicron exhibits increased antibody evasion reveals the study
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The study which is conducted at near-atomic resolution using cryo-electron microscopy reveals the way the Omicron variant latches on and infects human cells. Located on the outside of a coronavirus, the spike protein enables SARS-CoV-2 to enter human cells. According to experts, marking a spike of three to five times from the older variants, this Variant of Concern has undergone 36 mutations. The study reveals that the Omicron spike protein exhibits increased antibody evasion as compared to previous variants.
Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, the key author of the analysis said, "Understanding the molecular structure of the viral spike protein is important as it will allow us to develop more effective treatments against Omicron and related variants in the future". "By analysing the mechanisms by which the virus infects human cells, we can develop better treatments that disrupt that process and neutralise the virus," added the professor.
With the help of this structural analysis, it is now known that due to multiple mutations, new salt bridges and hydrogen bonds named ACE2 have been created between the spike protein and the human cell receptor. This new bond seems to raise the binding affinity of the virus.
Greater binding affinity than previous variants
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Talking about the same, the professor said, "The findings show that Omicron has greater binding affinity than the original virus, with levels more comparable to what we see with the Delta variant". "It is remarkable that the Omicron variant evolved to retain its ability to bind with human cells despite such extensive mutations", added the scientist.
Apart from increased binding affinity, this variant also shows an escalated evasion of antibodies collected from vaccinated and unvaccinated COVID patients. Exhibiting a complete escape from five, the Omicron variant displayed measurable evasion from all six monoclonal antibodies that were tested in this study.
"Notably, Omicron was less evasive of the immunity created by vaccines, compared to immunity from natural infection in unvaccinated patients. This suggests that vaccination remains our best defence," said Subramaniam.
-with inputs from IANS.