Scientists have released the most up-to-date illustration of the coronavirus ever made, mapping both its external appearance and internal structure.&n
Scientists have released the most up-to-date illustration of the coronavirus ever made, mapping both its external appearance and internal structure.
The visualisation was created via a 3D model and combines the latest data on the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is causing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Experts at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia created the model and hope it can help create treatments for Covid-19.
In a video the academics showcase their model which includes the protein spikes on its surface as well as the genetic material wound up inside the viral membrane.
Scientists have released the most up-to-date illustration of the coronavirus ever made(pictured), mapping both its external appearance and internal structure
The visualisation was created via a 3D model and combines the latest data on the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is causing the Covid-19 pandemic, both inside and out
‘Our 3D model demonstrates the current state-of-the-art structure of SARS-CoV-2 at the atomistic level and reveals details of the virus that were previously impossible to see, like how we think nucleocapsid proteins form a rope-like structure inside it,’ says KAUST research scientist Ondřej Strnad.
‘The approach we used to develop the model could steer biological research into new, promising directions for fighting the spread of COVID-19, as it could help scientists rapidly incorporate newly discovered information into the model and thus provide an up-to-date structure of the virus,’ he says.
To create the model the researchers took high-resolution images of the viral surface from scanning electron microscopes.
These reveal the specific appearance of the viral surface, showing the proteins and receptors protruding from its surface.
Included in these is the viral spike protein which binds to the ACE2 receptor of some human cells.
This spike tricks the receptor into opening up a pathway into the cell, allowing the coronavirus to bypass defences and infect a person.
The virus has a diameter of around 120nanometres, around 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair
Experts at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia who created the model hope it can help in development of Covid-19 treatments and vaccines
Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is ‘90% effective’
One of the leading coronavirus vaccine candidates has proven to be 90 per cent effective, marking a major breakthrough in the global race to stop the disease.
Pfizer and BioNTech today said that early results from a massive clinical trial suggest nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected from coronavirus by it.
In an update on progress in the ongoing study, the pharmaceutical companies said that of 94 people infected with the virus so far, at least 86 of them had been in the placebo group.
The placebo group is one in which people are given a fake vaccine so that what happens to them can be compared with those who get the real thing. Pfizer’s trial has split the participants half and half across the placebo and vaccine groups.
The company’s chairman hailed the breakthrough a ‘great day for science’ while independent experts said the results are ‘excellent’ and ‘really impressive’.
This spike has been the primary target of much vaccine and treatment research, specifically the so-called receptor-binding domain (RBD).
The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine which was today announced as being more than 90 per cent effective, targets this specific area, for example.
Professor Ian Jones, Professor of Virology, University of Reading, said: ‘Of all the current vaccine currently in development the BioNtech product always looked like the most bang-per-buck as it is entirely focused on the part of the virus that binds to the human cell, the receptor binding domain.’
The model then added data from various other sources to fill in the gaps in knowledge surrounding the interior of the coronavirus.
This includes information on SARS-CoV-2’s single RNA strand and the nucleocapsid proteins protecting it.
This was then combined with information on how all the aspects of the virus sit within the organism and interact with one another.
The end result is the most accurate ever look at the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
‘Our model shows the complete viral ultrastructure as we know it to date, and not just some arbitrarily placed, incomplete spike proteins on a lipid membrane,’ explains KAUST computer science Ph.D. student Ngan Nguyen.
‘Other available models also don’t show the interior of the virus, as its details are not currently known.
‘Scripps Research Institute, US, provided us with the most likely hypothesis for the structure’s interior based on current data. If this hypothesis is proven wrong, then we can easily update the model,’ she explains.