At the onset of the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), experts have been struggling to find and develop effective ways of fighting against the virus. To exacerbate the hurdles, new variants have also emerged and they continuously undergo mutations and changes to their genetic materials. In such predicaments, those changes enhance their ability to suppress the immune systems of the body allowing the virus to transmit and replicate better than the original variants.

A group of researchers in the Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics led by Professor Martin Hegner (Principal Investigator, Trinity Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices or CRANN ), developed a new nanomechanical technique  for rapid, one-step, immune-affinity tests that has the potential to quantify the immune response induced by different COVID-19 variants in serum. The new developed technique equipped us with a tool for tracking  infection immunity over time and for the analysis of new vaccine candidates.

The existing technique commonly used is the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test that is also equally sensitive with the new technique developed by Professor Hegner and his team. Nevertheless, the new technique’s major advantage is that it has an added single amino-acid resolution; can promptly detect multiple variants by in situ differential analysis; and can process more rapidly than the former one.

According to Professor Hegner, he said verbatim, “(The) measurements match the statistical analysis of, for example, the transmissibility of the alpha-variant that can otherwise only be gained by analysing the development of the disease proliferation within a population over weeks. [We believe that] this new technology can improve and speed up the public health guidance process.

“The direct technique greatly simplifies the preparation protocol that in ELISA includes many washings and waiting steps, hence reducing the amount of consumables needed and thus the relative cost. It will therefore be well suited to use in emergency situations.”

His team focused on the humoral immune response of the variants. Understanding the significance of the mutations in the spike protein that diminishes the efficacy of monoclonal antibody therapies and the current vaccines will help improve and enhance the development of new COVID-19 vaccines.

According to an article posted in ScienceDaily, the development of the technology by Professor Hegner and his team supports and aids in “vaccine development studies in phase 1-3, with focus on comparing protection patterns and analysing novel vaccine candidates.”

The findings for their work was published in the Nanoscale Advances  interdisciplinary journal entitled by, “Quantitative epitope analysis reveals drastic 63% reduced immuno-affinity and 60% enhanced transmissibility for SARS-CoV-2 variants.

 

References:

1. Brunetti, G., De Pastina, A., Hegner, M. (2021). Quantitative epitope analysis reveals drastic 63% reduced immuno-affinity and 60% enhanced transmissibility for SARS-CoV-2 variants. Nanoscale Advances. DOI: 10.1039/D1NA00554E

2. Scientists develop new strategy that rapidly quantifies transmissibility of COVID-19 variants. (2021, 13 October). ScienceDaily. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/10/211013114055.htm>.

(LA Sajulga)