Nasal cells potentially crucial in spread
UMCG researchers discover entry for coronavirus
The discovery might help explain how the virus can spread so fast from person to person, the researchers write in an article published in scientific journal Nature Medicine, and might help slow down the spread.
They discovered that the virus uses goblet and cillia cells in the nose and epithelial cells in other organs such as the eyes, lungs, and intestines as an entryway. These cells produce spike proteins the coronavirus uses to gain entry into the cells.
‘This is the first time these specific nasal cells are linked to the virus caused by COVID-19’, says biologist Martijn Nawijn and UMCG pulmonary specialist Maarten van den Berge.
‘The location of these cells on the surface of the inside of the nose makes them very accessible to the virus. The study also shows that the nasal cells, which carry the receptor, play a role in immune responses. We’re currently trying to find out if this function changes after infection with the virus.’
The research that led to the discovery of the entryway is the result of a collaboration between the British Wellcome Sanger Institute, the UMCG, and the Université Cote d’Azur in France. It’s part of a global Human Cell Atlas partnership, whose mission is to create reference maps of all human cells to understand health and disease.
More than 1,600 people across seventy countries are involved in the project, the data of which is made freely accessible to scientists all over the world. The worldwide Human Cell Atlas Lung Biological Network will study the data further to find out which exact cells are involved in spreading COVID-19.