Updated: Jan 24
The devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted scientists to think out-of-the-box to pursue research in areas otherwise not typically investigated. One of such areas involves the global hunt for people with genetic resistance to SARS-CoV-2 infection, with hopes of finding the genetic determinant for protection that could lead to the discovery of novel therapeutic and prophylactic agents.
Although a daunting task to find someone with this genetic determinant, locating even a single person would lead to a major breakthrough. A similar strategy has been previously tried with HIV that led to the identification of a rare mutation that disables the CCR5 receptor on white blood cells, preventing HIV from entering them and ultimately leading to the discovery of a class of HIV-blocking drugs. Two people were also apparently cleared of HIV after receiving bone-marrow transplants from donors with two copies of the resistant genes.
Since SARS-CoV-2 uses ACE2 receptors to enter cells, there is a very high likelihood that any rare mutation would probably reduce expression of the ACE2 gene, thus diminishing the risk of COVID infection.
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