Nevada Genomics Center unlocking the coronavirus
At the Nevada Genomics Center, director Paul Hartley is busy testing samples from patients who had COVID-19.
He says back in March he was contacted by UNR Med and the state health lab and asked to breakdown the samples and plot the DNA sequencing of each sample he received.
“We're trying to find out the genome sequence of the virus,” says Professor Hartley. “When you have a virus mutation, that virus can spread to another person and then to another person then it might mutate again spread to another person and another person. And by knowing what a group of people has in terms of the changes in the viral genome, you can build a phylogenetic chart to link together how the virus has been spreading,” he says.
A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA including all of its genes.
It takes about a week to complete the sequencing.
The samples come from the state health lab from both southern and northern Nevada and assigned an identification number so patients are not identified.
As Dr. Hartley says, the virus is mutating over time.
“Understanding the sequence, because when there are changes in the proteins which is required for entering this virus into the cells,” says Subhash Verma PH.D, a UNR Med Associate Professor. “So understanding that will tell us what has happened how many viruses are out there and whether the vaccine, which is coming out, for all of these strains,” he says.
The genome sequencing of the cornoavirus will no doubt allow us to understand the virus more completely.
But there is more.
We may find mutations in this virus may make a difference in how patients react when exposed to it.
Hartley has developed a more direct laboratory technique as well, which allows the genome to be studied more thoroughly.
The sequenced results will be deposited into an international data base.
Thus far the center has studied 76 samples from both southern and northern Nevada. Ultimately, they'd like to test 200.