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“Missing link” found in coronavirus reproduction cycle

Researchers may have found a missing link in the coronavirus reproduction cycle that could potentially be targeted by drugs, according to a report in Science on Thursday.

Scientists already knew that once the virus breaks into a cell, it forms double-membrane sacs, or vesicles, in which it makes copies of its genetic material.

But the sacs appeared to be closed and it was previously unclear how the genetic material moved from the sac into the fluid in the cell, where new virus particles assembled themselves. Eric Snijder of Leiden University Medical Center and his colleagues discovered tiny channels through both membranes that are wide enough to let the genetic material pass through.

“In electron microscope images we can see ‘stuff’ sticking out of these channels. Most likely this ‘stuff’ is the viral RNA on its way out, but as the sample is frozen, there is no movement and we still need to find ways to properly identify the ‘stuff’ as viral RNA,” Snijder told Reuters.

“Blocking this channel somehow…could create a big problem for the coronavirus to do its tricks,” he added.

 

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