CU Boulder researchers discover new way to identify mutations in COVID-19

Coronavirus

Irene Francino Urdaniz works on spike protein research at at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Credit: Casey A. Cass/ CU

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — University of Colorado Boulder researchers have created a way to identify mutations on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The technology could possibly lead to future vaccines for influenza and HIV, in addition to COVID-19.

“We’ve developed a predictive tool that can tell you ahead of time which antibodies are going to be effective against circulating strains of virus,” said associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and lead author Timothy Whitehead. “If you can predict what the variants will be in a given season, you could get vaccinated to match the sequence that will occur and short-circuit this seasonal variation.” 

The tool’s secret? Baker’s yeast. Irene Francino Urdaniz, graduate student and co-author on the research paper genetically manipulated the yeast to show SARS-CoV-2 viral “spike proteins.”

Using these spike proteins, Urdaniz was able to view thousands of mutations in one test tube. Knowing these mutations can help create proper booster vaccines for COVID-19.

Researchers have high hopes for this new discovery, and are anticipating this tool to change how science looks at mutations in viruses.

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