COVID-19 virus can alter cell structure, study finds

The virus that causes COVID-19 has the ability to alter the genome structure of cells, which may play a role in long COVID-19, according to new findings from researchers at UTHealth Houston. 

Some viruses are known to alter chromatin, the host structure where genetic materials in cells are stored. It had not yet been known where SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, had the ability to do so, but the team of researchers found evidence that it can. 

The study found the virus can essentially hijack chromatin to make more copies of itself, which may affect the severity and duration of symptoms, according to researchers. 

"This particular finding is quite unique and has not been seen in other coronaviruses before," said Wenbo Li, PhD, senior author on the study and associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at UTHealth Houston. "What we found here is a unique mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 that is associated with its severe impacts on human health." 

The findings were published March 23 in Nature Microbiology


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