American scientists have shared another disturbing study about the coronavirus. It turned out to be capable of producing a protein that makes it invisible to the immune system. The results of the work were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
“The virus produces a protein called nsp16, which in a special way changes the structure of the ends of copies of its genome. These changes act as a camouflage that tricks the cell into thinking the viral RNA is part of itself and not a foreign inclusion, ”explained one of the study authors, associate professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio Yogesh Gupta.
The researchers compared the nsp16 protein, which SARS-CoV-2 makes, with the same protein that only animals carry in SARS, the common cold, and coronaviruses. They are all very different, but it is not yet clear how this affects the function of the enzyme. While there is speculation that this may be due to its activity. In some cases, it is able to “cheat” more cells, in others – less.
Scientists now need to study nsp16 further in order to find a way to neutralize it. According to them, it will be possible to do this by creating short molecules that will deprive the protein of its “superpowers” and make the virus visible to the human immune system.