If a virus is to jump from animal to human host, it must be able to adapt its DNA and RNA transcription processes. Each species must be targeted differently, as each species has different molecular protections conferred upon them by nature. A new study, published this November in the journal Bioinformatics is using artificial intelligence to discover how micro RNAs alter the transcriptional timeline of the virus, now officially named SARS-CoV-2. In layman's terms, the virus must be able to change the proteins it creates in order to be effective in humans.
Micro RNAs (abbreviated miRNA) are molecules that determine how proteins are synthesized within any cell (both virus and human), as well as when and how the proteins are encoded. miRNA is a big piece of the "blueprint" for how the disease develops in someone who becomes infected. Researchers identified and isolated 6 precursor miRNAs that look to be responsible for the disease COVID-19. By using infected human epithelial cells in the lab, these 6 miRNAs are now being studied for weaknesses that we may be able to exploit to treat patients. The precursor miRNAs are important in understanding how the mature RNAs interact in the human genome during infection.
The team used a multi-pronged approach that utilized multiple types of machine learning, including a deep convolution neural network (CNN), the deeSOM model, and a one-class support vector machine (OC-SVM). After the correct pre-micro RNA's were identified, the programs looked for abnormal genes that were being expressed in the infected cells. The AI also looked for metabolic pathways that were running at higher than normal levels within the infected cells.
Once the researchers found the related mature miRNAs, It was determined that these RNAs are different from any other miRNA found in any organism on the planet besides the fruit fly. Each mature miRNA could be responsible for around 100 changes in the human genome once the virus infects a human cell. This means that the RNA changes the code for your cell. This is like an outside saboteur coming into your factory and starting to tell all of your workers to do the wrong things.
One frightening discovery is that the virus is able to silence up to 28 of your genes, some responsible for telling your cells to create neurons and dendrites. This may be the reason why SARS-CoV-2 has damaging neurological effects.
SARS-Cov-2's microRNAs may have promoted its Jump to humans. (2020, December 1). News-Medical.net. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201201/SARS-CoV-2s-microRNAs-may-have-promoted-its-jump-to-humans.aspx