Researchers at IIT Jodhpur Device Technology to Identify COVID-19 RNA Variations, Their Implications | Photo credit: iStock Images
New Delhi: In a recent development, a multi-institutional team led by researchers from IIT Jodhpur has developed a method to identify RNA variations of the COVID-19 virus through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and genomic sequencing. For the study, the researchers analyzed the RNA structures of samples from Germany, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia and India.
The ribonucleic acid (RNA) structure of the virus is subject to constant modification. These alterations are known as intra-host variations at the nucleotide level and although they are minor, they can have a significant impact on the nature of the virus. As these variations are the consequence of an enzyme-directed host cell immune response, some variations can be harmful (even destructive) to the virus. As these variations cause alterations in the structure and nature of the virus, some variations can lead to an improvement in the survivability of the virus, thus turning them into variants of concern.
Dr Mitali Mukerji, Professor and Head of Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Jodhpur and co-lead of the study said, “One of the most important aspects of managing the COVID-19 pandemic is to unravel the genetic structure of the virus and pick up early warning signatures.
“We observed 16,410 iSNV sites spanning the viral genome, and a high density of alterations were present in critical areas that could impair or override the body’s ability to mount an immune response,” she added.
This study of intra-host single nucleotide variations (iSNVs) can help with the following:
- Variant RNA tracking.
- Understanding variants on a deeper level.
- Predicting the next variant of concern.
- Finding solutions to combat these variant concerns
- Design methods to effectively address public health and COVID-19 infections.
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