Research identifies more than a thousand genes linked to severe cases of Covid

Research identifies more than a thousand genes linked to severe cases of Covid

Posted on 06/15/2022 4:16 PM / updated on 06/15/2022 4:17 PM

The research, published Tuesday (6/14) in the journal Cell Systems, showed that the thousand identified genes are responsible for 77% of the drivers of severe cases of Covid19  (Image credit: Pixabay)

The research, published Tuesday (6/14) in the journal Cell Systems, showed that the thousand identified genes are responsible for 77% of the drivers of severe cases of Covid19 (Image credit: Pixabay)

A joint study by the Universities of Sheffield in the UK and Stanford University in the United States identified more than a thousand genes linked to the development of severe cases of Covid19. This is a significant finding, the researchers say, in helping to understand why some people have more severe symptoms of the coronavirus — and others don’t.

The research, published on Tuesday (6/14) in the journal Cell Systems you can read it in full at this link showed that the thousand genes identified are responsible for 77% of the drivers of severe cases of Covid19.

First, the researchers analyzed the genetic data of lung tissue cells from a healthy person. The data helped identify gene expression in 19 different types of lung cells, including epithelial cells that line the airways and provide the first line of defense against infection.

Next, they examined data collected by the COVID19 Host Genetics Initiative a healthcare database looking for genetic clues (like DNA mutations called single nucleotide polymorphisms) that might indicate whether someone is more likely to have Covid19. 19 is seriously suffering.

Searches for answers

Based on the results, the researchers had to check whether the mutations found could increase the likelihood of severe infection from Covid19. So they performed a genomewide search of lung tissue for mutations in patients with the disease and in healthy patients.

While they knew which mutations were most likely to carry disease risk, the researchers still didn’t know which genes were affected by those mutations. To get the definitive list of genes, they used molecular clues to decipher the region of the genome where the mutation occurred, eventually narrowing down the region to specific genes.

“When you’re studying the genetic basis of the disease, you’re trying to identify the responsible regions of the genome. If you know where to fish all the hot spots, in this case the active genomic regions in the lungs you have a much better chance of catching more fish than if you look across the ocean,” explains Michael Snyder, one of them the authors of the study.

The researchers were also interested in which cell types exhibit defective gene expression. Therefore, the study also notes that severe cases of Covid19 are associated with a weakened response of two immune cells NK cells (natural killer) and T cells.

“NK cells, which humans are born with and which are the body’s first line of defense against infection, are known for their ability to destroy viruses and cancer cells. They are like generals leading the war. They mobilize other immune cells and tell them where to go and what to do. We found that in people with severe coronavirus infection, critical genes are less expressed in NK cells, making the immune response less robust. The cell isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do,” explains Dr. Johnathan CooperKnock, another author of the study.

“Our findings lay the groundwork for a genetic test that can predict who will be born at increased risk of severe Covid19,” he said. “Imagine there are 1,000 DNA changes linked to severe Covid19. If you have 585 of these changes, it can make you quite vulnerable and you should take all necessary precautions,” adds Snyder.