Hormel Institute scientists publish research on COVID-19 omicron variant

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

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The research could lead to methods for curbing the spread of omicron


The Hormel Institute’s Bin Liu, PhD, Assistant Professor and leader of the Transcription and Gene Regulation research section, published a study on the COVID-19 omicron variant in the high-impact journal Nature Communications.

The study used The Hormel Institute’s Cryo-EM technology, which allows researchers to see the structure of cells to the near-atomic level, to study the omicron spike protein. The spike protein is found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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“The emergence of the omicron variant presents new challenges to global health and economy.” Liu said. “The spike protein mediates SARS-CoV-2’s entry into human cells, induces humans’ neutralizing immune responses, and is the basis of current COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Therefore, a timely evaluation of the structural features of the omicron spike protein is a high priority for public health measures.”

The study identified traits of the spike protein that may explain why omicron is so infectious and why it is effective at infecting people who are vaccinated. This could lead to vaccines and therapeutic strategies that would specifically target the omicron variant and curb its spread.

This study was co-led by Liu and Fang Li, PhD, a professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Full paper is accessible here: www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-28882-9