How A Change in Immune Cell Metabolism Contributes to Severe COVID-19

Illustration of energy metablism in cell.

There is still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19 and the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that caused the pandemic and changed the way we live. But there are two things we do know about the disease: 1) Patients with diabetes and high blood glucose levels are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms with higher mortality.  2) Patients that experience an uncontrolled inflammatory response, called the cytokine storm, also develop more severe COVID-19 symptoms. The fact that both high glucose levels and an exaggerated immune response drive severe disease suggests that the two may be linked. But how? The answer may lie in the metabolism of immune cells in the lungs of COVID-19 patients, according to a recent study published in Cell Metabolism.

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Answers to the Most Common Questions from “Battling the Novel Coronavirus” Online Event

This post was written by guest blogger, Nitin Kapoor, from our Promega India branch office.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to substantial worldwide efforts to develop drug treatments and vaccines effective against SARS-CoV-2.  Termed a novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the same family as that of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) viruses that were responsible for epidemics in 2003 and 2012 respectively (Lu et al. 2020)

India reported more coronavirus infections than any other country in the world during July 2020. Records topped 50,000 new cases each day. 

Recognizing the need for a fast development of assays to detect SARS-CoV-2 and identify exposed individuals and to support research into better understanding the coronavirus, Promega’s branch office in India developed a how to “Battle against Novel Coronavirus” live virtual event that was hosted by its associate partner, Biotecnika. The virtual event featured scientists and business professionals focused on SARS-CoV-2 Detection and Assay Development. Around 9,000 attendees from the scientific community attended the live event and had the unique opportunity to ask Promega scientists questions about the virus, its products, and vaccine development.

Several of the most often asked questions from the event participants are highlighted below:

How is RT-PCR testing different from serological testing for COVID-19?

SARS-CoV-2  is an RNA virus so the first thing we will be able to detect is the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Testing for antibodies is called serological testing. Such a test can identify who has been infected with the new coronavirus but it cannot necessarily identify an active infection. The antibodies are detected later, after symptoms developed, and are believed to stay on in the blood for at least a few months. Serologiocal tests are used for checking epidemiology, not for diagnosing an active infection.

With all of the COVID-19 cases, there is a need for quick turnaround on tests. How can the Maxwell Instrument help?

The Maxwell® RSC instrument is a compact, automated RNA extraction platform that processes up to 48 samples simultaneously in less than 35 minutes, so in typical 8-hour shift instrument can process up to 400 samples. The Maxwell® RSC 48 Instrument is for research use only.

How can your Lumit™ technology be used to understand immune response to SARS-CoV-2?

Technologies built around the Lumit platform can be used in immunoassays in which NanoBiT® subunits are conjugated to a pair of secondary antibodies. The target analyte can be detected by adding an antibody mix either containing two primary antibodies against the target analyte along with SmBiT- and LgBiT- conjugated secondary antibodies, or by adding SmBiT- and LgBiT- conjugated primary antibodies. Binding of the primary/Lumit™ secondary antibody complexes to their corresponding epitopes brings NanoBiT® subunits into proximity to form an active NanoLuc® luciferase that generates light in proportion to the amount of target protein. 

Additionally our NanoLuc® and NanoBiT™ technologies are being used to create reporter viruses used in vaccine and therapeutic research and development (2,3).

What is your opinion about upcoming vaccine?

COVID-19 is one of the biggest global health concerns, with massive economic burden. With no clear remedies to treat the disease, researchers are racing against the clock to trial COVID-19 vaccines. Promega supports scientists, working to understand the molecular mechanisms by which emerging viruses infects and to develop accurate detection methods, therapeutics, and vaccines.

We support scientists working to develop vaccines and to answer questions about viral pathology and treatment, including: 

  • How does the binds to and enters cells?
  • How does the body respond to the virus?
  • What treatments can be used to alleviate symptoms?
  • How can immunity to the virus be gained?

“Promega technologies are used in studies monitoring key steps in viral pathogenesis,” said Rajnish Bharti, Promega India General Manager, “including detecting virus interactions with host cell surface receptors, tracking and monitoring production of viral nucleic acids and proteins within the cell, and monitoring host cell viability and metabolism.”

You can view the online recording of the webinar below:

Literature Cited

  1. Lu R. et al. (2020) Genomic characterization, and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding. Lancet. 2020; 395:565–574. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30251-8. [PubMed]
  2. Hooper, K. (2020) Choices for Measuring Luciferase-Tagged Reporter Pseudotyped Viral Particles in Coronavirus Research. Promega Connections [Internet: https://www.promegaconnections.com/choices-for-measuring-luciferase-tagged-reporter-pseudotyped-viral-particles-in-coronavirus-research/ ]
  3. Arduengo, M. (2020) The Path Brightens for Vaccine Researchers: Lumienscent Reporter Viruses Detect Neutralizing Antibodies. Promega Connections [Internet: https://www.promegaconnections.com/luminescent-reporter-viruses/ ]

Nitin Kapoor, Manager of Marketing Services for Promega Biotech India, Ltd. joined Promega in Oct 2017. Nitin Kapoor has 9 years of expertise in Sales and Marketing in Life Sciences, Pharma/ Biotech, Molecular Diagnostics and Forensic domain. His specialties are Product management ,  Sales force effectiveness, Market Research, Brand positioning & Competitor analysis. Before joining Promega  he has worked with companies like Qiagen , ThermoFisher Scientific & GE Health care.
He has completed MBA Biotech Gold Medallist from Amity University Noida . He is also an Author for Book: ‘Issue Related with Marketing of GM Food’ LAP publisher and is co-author for research paper on ‘Marketing of Nanobiogarments’ in IJMRA, Volume 2, Issue 4.

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Most of us, after we flush the toilet, don’t think twice about our body waste. To us, it’s garbage. To epidemiologists, however, wastewater can provide valuable information about public health and help save lives.

History of Wastewater-Based Epidemiology

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is the analysis of wastewater to monitor public health. The term first emerged in 2001, when a study proposed the idea of analyzing wastewater in sewage-treatment facilities to determine the collective usage of illegal drugs within a community. At the time, this idea to bridge environmental and social sciences seemed radical, but there were clear advantages. Monitoring wastewater is a nonintrusive and relatively inexpensive way to obtain real-time data that accurately reflects community-wide drug usage while ensuring the anonymity of individuals.

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What We Know About the COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

David Goodsell image of SARS-2-CoV
Image by David Goodsell

In the nine months since the first cases of COVID-19 were noticed in Wuhan, China, the virus has spread around the globe and infected over 22 million people. As with all emerging infectious diseases, we often find ourselves with more questions than answers. However, through the tireless work of researchers, doctors and public health officials worldwide, we have learned a lot about the virus, how it spreads and how to contain it.

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Questions about Immunity? This Infographic Might Help

If you are the “family scientist” you may find yourself answering questions about things like antibodies, immunity and serology from friends and family curious about the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the news they are seeing. Whether you are an oceanographic cartographer or a seasoned immunologist, we hope that this infographic about antibody testing helps.


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The Path Brightens for Vaccine Researchers: Luminescent Reporter Viruses Detect Neutralizing Antibodies

Developing a vaccine that is safe, effective, easily manufactured and distributed is a daunting task. Yet, that is exactly what is needed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccine development, safety and efficacy testing take time. The mumps vaccine is thought to be the quickest infectious disease vaccine ever produced, and its development required four years from sample collection to licensing (2). However, there are many reasons to anticipate quicker development for a COVID-19 vaccine: Researchers are collaborating in unprecedented ways, and most COVID-19 scientific publications are free for all to access and often available as preprints. As of August 11, 2020, researchers around the globe have more than 165 vaccine candidates in development, 30 of which are in some phase of human clinical trials (1). The range of vaccine formulations available to scientists has expanded to include RNA and DNA vaccines, replication-defective adenovirus vaccines, inactivated or killed vaccines and subunit protein vaccines. Equally important is that vaccine developers and researchers have greater access to powerful molecular biology tools like bioluminescent reporters that enable quicker testing and development.

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Using the Power of Technology for Viral Outbreaks

Artist’s rendition of a virus particle.

When the world is experiencing a viral pandemic, scientists and health officials quickly want data-driven answers to understand the situation and better formulate a public health response. Technology provides tools that researchers can use to develop a rapid sequencing protocol. With such a protocol, the data generated can help answer questions about disease epidemiology and understand the interaction between host and virus. Even better: If the protocol is freely available and based on cheap, mobile sequencing systems.

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Improving SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Detection with Bioluminescence

Science is the practice of figuring out how things work and then using that knowledge to further our understanding or to create tools that can solve problems facing the world. Bioluminescent tools and assays are examples of science doing all these things. Bioluminescence is the light-yielding (luminescence) chemical reaction that is used by many lifeforms. When fireflies flicker in the twilight, they are using bioluminescence to flash on and off.  Chemically, bioluminescence happens when an enzyme called luciferase acts on a light-emitting compound, luciferin, in the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), magnesium and oxygen.

For scientists, bioluminescence can serve as a tool to help them understand many cellular functions. Since few animal or plant cells produce their own light, there is little to no background signal (light) to be concerned about. This lack of background means that all light coming from the sample can be measured. In fact, bioluminescence is often a preferred tool for scientists because it does not require an external light source or special filters, which are required for fluorescence-based technologies.

Promega scientists have developed bioluminescent tools and assays to support leading edge scientific research for decades, beginning in 1990 with the Luciferase biosensor technology based on firefly luciferase. Luciferase is a wonderful tool for studying how enzymes work because its output (light) is so easy to measure: samples are placed into a special instrument called a luminometer, and the amount of light being produced (Relative Light Units) is recorded. Bioluminescence technology can be configured to measure a variety of cellular biology, ranging from cell health to enzyme activity down to the specific event of turning a gene on or off. The advent of new techniques for genetic manipulation, along with an enhanced understanding of bioluminescence and the discovery and engineering of better luciferases, enables science to use bioluminescence in even more unique ways.

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Social Distancing: Taking a Lesson from Creatures Big and Small

For many of us, the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic means working from home. For many, working from home means being away from human companionship that’s normally part of our work lives. While my four-legged office mates are quiet and do not require meetings, they are no substitute for human coworkers.

How about you? In our socially distanced world, do you find strength in the knowledge that others are also self-isolating to stay healthy?

What if I told you that numerous animal species, lobsters to mongoose, ants to mandrills, all practice social distancing to avoid infectious agents? Here are a few examples.

Image of banded mongoose family group.
Banded mongoose family group.
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New Uses for Old Drugs: Remdesivir and COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic far from over in the United States and worldwide, the battle against the disease continues to intensify. Much hope has been pinned on vaccine development. However, vaccines are a long-term, preventative strategy. The immediate need for drugs to fight COVID-19 has accelerated efforts for a variety of potential treatments (see The Race to Develop New Therapeutics Against Coronaviruses).

The Remdesivir Origin Story

3d model of coronavirus

One drug that has received widespread attention is remdesivir. It was developed from research by Gilead Sciences that began in 2009, originally targeting hepatitis C virus (HCV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (1). At present, remdesivir is classified as an investigational new drug (IND) and has not been approved for therapeutic use anywhere in the world.

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