A new study showed how the only known mutation that is rare enough to represent an existential threat to airline plans is much more common than previously believed. The study that uncovered the COVID-19 omicron variant, when added to the genetic code that every person possesses, triggered changes in brain development that scientists believe might have led to an earlier onset of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The COVID-19 variant was found in relation to the chemical messenger that acts as a switch for converting the molecular gates between protein building materials and chemical receptors. When using chemical controls to control these chemical gates, the membrane they pass through becomes permeable. Using the COVID-19 mutation as a template, scientists have mapped the regulation of the manufacturing gate, it is surrounded by a chemical ring. Using an expanded version of this chemical map, the scientists managed to unlock how this transformation of the chemical gate was carried out.
This research was published in the journal Nature this week.
The results of the study could have implications for the treatment of depression. Since there is no universal biomarker of the disease, it is difficult to determine whether depression, rather than genetics, is the underlying cause of it. The researchers discovered that disrupting the chemical processes to which the COVID-19 variant and ring would respond, perhaps by blocking its receptors, is likely to alter the developmental process. They conclude that at least some people would not respond to antidepressants, and it could be helpful to find a molecule that blocks the increased clearance of genes that are in conflict with the chemical gate.
While big healthcare advancements regularly take years and decades to implement, the progression of this discovery and pathway for humans has already been important. The study showed how an experimental drug known to prevent the COVID-19 mutation, was effective for the treatment of patients suffering from schizophrenia. The study is important as it sheds light on the intricate steps and chemistry behind the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Dr. Kenneth Wang, study co-author and neuroscientist, who is based at Stanford University School of Medicine, said that the researchers had not intended to uncover the existence of COVID-19, but more importantly, the mutations could be used to track the progression of these diseases.
Dr. Chan said that there are now a host of treatments being looked at that could be used to understand how mutations are affecting human brain development and other traits. While the molecular gate reversal could be an easily understood means to control depression, this could have serious implications for diabetes.
Hopes are high that this discovery will provide some answer to how to combat the illness in future treatments, and for human treatment in general. What is most remarkable about this is that the scientists have shown how possible it was to track changes occurring over the course of the cellular development without prior knowledge of the mutation at all.
Dr. Wang said that the COVID-19 mutation is far more common than previously thought, more than 30,000 genomes, or about one third of the world’s entire population, carry it, but even though they have discovered it, they cannot be sure whether other mutations are present in these patients, or there could be other mutations influencing human development that are undetected.
His conclusion is that this breakthrough lays the ground for new ways of studying various diseases. “This discovery, this study, it absolutely serves as a wake-up call to anybody who thinks that medicine and healthcare science have exhausted the human genome and cannot explore other areas.”