We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content and advertising. To learn more, click here. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies. Cookie Policy.

Features Partner Sites Information LinkXpress
Sign In
Advertise with Us
Detecto

Download Mobile App





World’s First Molecular-Level Analysis of Omicron Spike Protein to Help Develop Variant-Resistant COVID-19 Treatments

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 27 Dec 2021
Print article
Image: Atomic structure of the Omicron variant spike protein (purple) bound with the human ACE2 receptor (blue) (Photo courtesy of Sriram Subramaniam)
Image: Atomic structure of the Omicron variant spike protein (purple) bound with the human ACE2 receptor (blue) (Photo courtesy of Sriram Subramaniam)

Scientists have unveiled the world’s first molecular-level analysis of the Omicron variant spike protein, revealing strong antibody evasion and binding with human cells that contribute to its increased transmissibility.

Researchers from The University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC, Canada) have become the first in the world to conduct a molecular-level structural analysis of the Omicron variant spike protein. The analysis—done at near atomic resolution using a cryo-electron microscope—reveals how the heavily mutated variant infects human cells and is highly evasive of immunity. The findings shed new light on why Omicron is highly transmissible and will help accelerate the development of more effective treatments.

The Omicron variant is unprecedented for having 37 spike protein mutations or three to five times more mutations than any other variant seen earlier. This is significant because the spike protein is how the virus attaches to and infects human cells and antibodies attach to the spike protein in order to neutralize the virus. Therefore, small mutations on the spike protein have potentially big implications for how the virus is transmitted, how the human body fights it off, and the effectiveness of treatments.

In order to understand how mutations impact the behavior of the Omicron variant at a molecular level, the scientists conducted a study using cryo-electron microscopy and other tests. The team found that several mutations (R493, S496 and R498) create new salt bridges and hydrogen bonds between the spike protein and the human cell receptor known as ACE2. This appears to increase binding affinity—how strongly the virus attaches to human cells—while other mutations (K417N) decrease the strength of this bond. Overall, the findings showed that Omicron has greater binding affinity than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, with levels more comparable to those seen with the Delta variant. It is remarkable that the Omicron variant evolved to retain its ability to bind with human cells efficiently despite such extensive mutations.

These findings confirm what is being seen in the real world—that the Omicron spike protein is far better than other variants at evading monoclonal antibodies that are commonly used as treatments, as well as at evading the immunity produced by both vaccines and natural infection.

Notably, Omicron was less evasive of the immunity created by vaccines, as compared to immunity stemming from natural infection in unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. This suggests that vaccination remains the best defiance against the Omicron variant. Both the characteristics seen as a result of spike protein mutations—strong binding with human cells and increased antibody evasion—are likely contributing factors to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant. These are the underlying mechanisms fuelling the variant’s rapid spread and why Omicron could become the dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 very quickly.

However, knowing the molecular structure of the spike protein will now allow researchers to develop more effective treatments against Omicron and related variants in the future. By understanding how the virus attaches to and infects human cells means, researchers can develop treatments that disrupt that process and neutralize the virus. The team is now focusing on improving its understanding of the binding of neutralizing antibodies and treatments that will be effective across the entire range of variants, and how those can be used to develop variant-resistant treatments.

Related Links:
The University of British Columbia 

BMP Whole Blood Analyzer: GEM Premier ChemSTAT
Gold Supplier
Newborn Hemoglobin Screening System
VARIANTnbs
New
Medical Digital Video Recorder
IPS720
New
OB/GYN Stretcher
Hillrom OB/GYN Stretcher

Print article

Channels

AI

view channel
Image: EchoGo Heart Failure is the first and only AI-enabled HFpEF detection platform for echocardiography (Photo courtesy of Ultromics)

AI Solution for Echocardiography to Revolutionize Diagnosis of Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) is a type of heart failure often associated with co-morbidities and tends to be caused by increased pressure within the chambers of the heart.... Read more

Critical Care

view channel
Image: Lodestar DX provides lab-accurate test results in 30 minutes (Photo courtesy of Llusern Scientific)

Portable UTI Molecular Diagnostic Platform Provides Accurate Test Results in 40 Minutes

Despite being one of the most common types of infection Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are a comparatively neglected area of medicine. There are no highly accurate diagnostic tools available for point-of-care... Read more

Surgical Techniques

view channel
Image: ActivSight Intelligent Light has received CE Mark approval (Photo courtesy of Activ Surgical)

Enhanced Imaging System to Become a Game-Changer in the OR by Revolutionizing Surgical Vision

Critical structure identification and tissue perfusion assessment are essential for patients to have the best possible chance of healing well without facing life-threatening or costly complications.... Read more

Patient Care

view channel
Image: Automated cleaning system allows endoscopes to be cleaned direct from clinic (Photo courtesy of Aston University)

World’s First Automated Endoscope Cleaner Fights Antimicrobial Resistance

Endoscopes are long, thin tubes with a light and camera at one end. Due to the sensitivity of the materials and electronics they cannot be sterilized in an autoclave (a machine that uses steam under pressure),... Read more

Health IT

view channel
Image: Using digital data can improve health outcomes (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Electronic Health Records May Be Key to Improving Patient Care, Study Finds

When a patient gets transferred from a hospital to a nearby specialist or rehabilitation facility, it is often difficult for personnel at the new facility to access the patient’s electronic health records... Read more

Business

view channel
Image: The global multiparameter patient monitoring systems market is expected to surpass USD 15 billion by 2028 (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Global Multiparameter Patient Monitoring Systems Market Driven by Rising Chronic Illnesses

Multi-parameter patient monitoring equipment is used to assess the vital signs of patients who are suffering from a serious illness. These devices are meant to give the number of data sets on one screen... Read more
Copyright © 2000-2022 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.