Khalifa University, partners working to better understand how the COVID-19 virus spreads and its impact on society

ABU DHABI, A joint team of scientists and clinicians from Khalifa University of Science and Technology, UAE University, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the University of Sharjah are currently working to better understand how the COVID-19 virus spreads and its impact on society, to enable the country’s leaders to develop and implement strategies that can reduce its undesirable effects on the quality of life and the UAE’s economy.

The scientists are working on a range of projects to understand why some humans respond with greater severity than others and how the virus infects its host.

Specifically, researchers within the multidisciplinary team are trying to understand the role of the immune system and whether differences in our ability to respond can explain the variation in disease severity seen in the population.

Dr. Habiba Alsafar, Acting Associate Dean for Student Affairs, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Associate Professor at Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, and Director of Khalifa University Centre for Biotechnology, is part of the team of researchers.

Dr. Alsafar said, “On average, it takes five to six days for the symptoms to show and people with mild symptoms can generally take care of themselves at home. However, for patients with underlying health problems, the infection can prove fatal. Our team is trying to establish how other genes and proteins that explain the predisposition of certain patients go completely asymptomatic and those that respond poorly to the infection.”

For this reason, researchers are looking at the RNA from the host patients while trying to identify potential biomarkers to see why some patients become infected but remain asymptomatic and others develop mild or moderate symptoms. Although several host factors play a role in the progression of the disease, it does so in the context of viruses.

For example, the ACE2 receptor of the host cells binds to the S-protein on the surface of the virus particle, interacting and contributing to the pathophysiology of the disease, necessitating the study of the genomes of both the host and the virus. The global effort to understand the interplay between the host and the virus is likely to advance disease management, vaccine development and identification of targets for therapeutic interventions.

Information obtained from the viral genome can be used to determine how the virus spreads and from where it has originated. It also provides information about the evolving strains circulating in the population, which may be important for initiatives to control and suppress the spread of the virus.

 

Source: Emirates News Agency

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