As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, scientists and health experts struggle to unfold the mysteries surrounding the disease. The search for a vaccine has eventually led to delving deeper into the human genome. Indeed, the most puzzling aspect of COVID-19 is how some people expire from the infection, while others remain asymptomatic and recover. It's possible to find the elusive solution to the pandemic by looking at existing DNA databases.
How extensive is the DNA information available for researchers?
Over the past several years, consumer DNA testing kits have become prevalent. Checking your DNA status during the Coronavirus pandemic is possible because of accessible online databases and tools. Also, while most DNA testing companies specialize in tracing genetic ancestry, there are several that also conduct tests to identify the individual's risk factor to certain diseases.
What's great about these DNA tests is how the consumer can opt to upload his results online. With the wealth of genetic information available, geneticists can compare the data from COVID-19 victims to the profile of millions who already took a DNA test. What's most interesting is the likelihood that a person's genetic makeup is the key to his vulnerability or resistance to the disease.The ultimate goal of the ongoing research is to identify specific genes directly related to how the body reacts to the virus. By cracking the code, scientists will be able to produce effective medication, treatment methods, or a vaccine. Another possible outcome of these studies is a DNA test kit that will provide a reliable prediction if a healthy individual is predisposed to contract the disease.
One of the most recent breakthroughs in genetic research related to the COVID-19 pandemic relates to the gene ACE-2. This gene specifically instructs the body to create a receptor protein on the lung's surface. This receptor protein is what protects the body in most virus entry points. Hence, the differences in ACE-2 could be a factor that impacts how vulnerable you are to the disease.
In addition to ACE-2, geneticists are also looking into other genes directly related to the body's response to COVID-19. Most, if not all, of these genes, affect a person's immunity. Several of these genes are only found in the X chromosome. This is perhaps the reason why more men than women get infected.
Lastly, geneticists are also looking for genes similar to CCR5, which makes carriers immune to HIV. If there is such a gene that can make a person resistant to COVID-19, there will be a better chance of finding a vaccine.
Controversies and challenges
While genetic research is promising, there are still many challenges that lie ahead. It's like searching for the unknown while at a constant race with time. Also, many people feel that accessing the genetic information of millions of people will violate their privacy. With private organizations learning more about the genetic makeup of a person, it may be used against them. What's essential here is to continue genetic research while ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of test subjects.