DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is a gene fragment found in living organisms. If you see scientific diagrams, a DNA molecule appears as a double-stringed chain containing the instructions needed to create and maintain an organism. DNA resides in the nucleus of body cells and moves down from parents to their offspring. This genetic material consists of four chemicals: guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thymine. In medical or scientific terminology, the word ‘nucleotides’ represents the combination of these chemical units. Their arrangement affects the performance of the DNA. However, through the process of sequencing, one can change the form and function of an organism.
DNA can influence vital biological systems, such as cell separation, protein synthesis, and hereditary factors. Any structural changes to this deoxyribonucleic acid can potentially cause health complications. Do you wonder if one can see DNA through a microscope? The tiny shape of the DNA prevents you from having a clear view of the strand, which, according to MyBioSource, tends to be about 2 nanometers in width, about five million times smaller than your finger’s width.
DNA and COVID-19
After the high transmission rate of omicron subvariants, those who never contracted COVID infection worry about their vulnerability. CDC says that more than 50% of Americans never caught the infection. As per CDC data, slightly more than 43% of US people developed antibodies for the virus due to the illness and not vaccines; this indicates that about 60% of the population is still untouched by the virus. Currently, masking rules are becoming obsolete, and there is an improvement in infection and death rates also. The New York Timestracker informs that there is a decrease of about 51% in new infections and 30% in a fatality in two weeks.
One may ask if these people are COVID-proof. It is obvious for any ordinary person to believe this, especially those who had multiple encounters with infected people, and yet they never got affected. For example, think about your spouse and kids getting the infection, but you never did. On the other hand, people have fallen sick due to coronavirus more than one or two times, even within a few months. Then, some fell prey to long COVID with mild symptoms. All these differences have made it crucial for scientists and researchers to understand why virus behaves so differently in some cases. As the immunity gained from vaccines is also decreasing and Omicron-led hospitalization cases are increasing in the US, there is even more urgency and interest in the subject.
CDC data reveals that about 60% of Americans have the virus, consisting of three in four kids. IHME suggests that more than 75% of people have had the infection. Immunologists and microbiologists are researching genetics. They aim to find answers about what made some people avoid the disease in these over two years. However, genetics doesn’t show how COVID virus affects someone. Studying genes can help them identify traits that make some people more protected against the virus. Age, existing health conditions, lifestyle choices, and vaccination also play an essential role.
According to one of the theories, DNA can control immunity response to the virus or receptors that let the virus enter through the lungs, nose, and throat.
DNA analysis for severe COVID and other medical conditions
According to new research, some human DNA types show a propensity toward COVID-19 severity and severe medical disorders, including faulty inflammation reactions, blood clotting, etc. PLOS Genetics informed of this finding derived from the stored genes of 600k people. The studies helped find that some immune-mediated disorders and severe COVID infections had a similar genetic makeup or design, as informed by Harvard Medical School’s associate professor and rheumatologist Katherine Liao. Variants responsible for COVID severity existed in the ABO locus that signifies where a gene lives on a chromosome.
Do you know what a chromosome is? Chromosomes are slender, lean DNA structures residing in the nucleus of cells. They contain multiple genes or hereditary units that decide the traits transferred from parent to kid. The exact genetic location demonstrates that it can have a connection with many other medical disorders like thrombosis and venous embolism. Anyone with these variants is 33% at risk of developing such conditions.
On the other hand, some gene positions familiar with worse coronavirus infection didn’t have any connection with a few conditions, such as autoimmune and respiration-related challenges. The, the location of genes in the CRHR1 locus reflected 16% less risk for developing pulmonary fibrosis or scarred lungs. Likewise, TYK2’s locus showed signs of lowering the risk of lupus and psoriasis.
These studies aim to comprehend the risks posed by a person’s DNA. There is a need for more research on genetic variants to improve public health readiness. For this, access to a centralized database of biobanks can be critical for the research centers. The information derived from these efforts can be helpful in current and future pandemic situations.