Coronavirus
Structural Task Force

Coronavirus Blog

Opinion: Can the Strategy of the Ongoing COVID-19 Vaccination End the Pandemic Fast Enough?

by
Joshua Ezika
on
2021/05/28
COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time and vaccination exercise is of course ongoing in most countries. Everyone is anxious to see the pandemic come to an end for things to return to normal. As of 23rd April 2021, more than 966 million doses have been administered worldwide [1], however, we have to remember that […]
Floating coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

What does the Coronavirus really look like?

by
Dr. Andrea Thorn
on
2020/07/31
The coronavirus cannot be seen with the naked eye; it is invisible. That is a huge problem. Imagine if your house were on fire: you would react immediately, leave the house, call the fire brigade and warn the neighbours. The thread would be clearly visible. This is, however, not true for the coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 cannot […]

How reliable is the Pfizer-BioNTech claim that their vaccine is 90 percent effective?

by
Dale E. Tronrud
on
2020/12/10
On Nov 9th, 2020 Pfizer issued a press release stating their conclusion that the COVID-19 vaccine they developed with BioNTech appeared to be 90% effective. While their test contained over 43,000 volunteers they had only detected 94 cases of COVID-19. How confident can you be with only 94 cases? I decided to explore this matter […]

Ironic: Using viruses to fight coronavirus

by
Katharina Hoffmann
on
2021/04/29
In addition to mRNA vaccines, another type of vaccine is employed against COVID-19: Vector vaccines—like the one from AstraZeneca—contain a mostly functioning virus. But how do they work exactly? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And finally, are they safe? The novel mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 have caused some controversy, and many concerns have been […]

How SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus) mRNA-based Vaccines Work

by
Joshua Ezika
on
2021/02/22
Introduction The coronavirus pandemic hit the entire world and caused millions of deaths. More than fifty companies race towards developing a vaccine to stop the disease (1). Vaccination presents a lasting solution to this unfavourable situation, reducing the burden of Coronavirus (2). The first vaccine to be approved for emergency use is an mRNA-based vaccine (3,4). How does […]

Exoribonuclease: Making the most when mistakes are made

by
Cameron D Fyfe
on
2020/09/01
The building plan Storing the building plans for a virus in its genome is much like how we store ideas in language. This may sound strange but, as an example, typos in spelling, grammar, or word usage, can lead to the meaning of a sentence either changing dramatically, remaining virtually unchanged, or becoming complete nonsense. […]
FFP2 Mask illustrated to reveal SEM image of Filter layer

Sizes of Viruses, Droplets, Aerosols, and the Construction of Masks

by
Toyin Akinselure
on
2021/06/10
Since the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, infection has continued to spread. At the same time, governmental agencies around the world have adjusted the rules to prevent its spread. Information sources as basis for these rules have been obtained from scientific studies, public health research and simulation tests to understand the efficiency of mask types in preventing […]
Computer rendered image of corona virus by Thomas Splettstoesser (left), and finished 3D print by Thorn Lab (right). Picture on the left by Thomas Splettstößer (scistyle.com)

How to make your own 3D printed coronavirus model

by
Kristopher Nolte
on
2020/07/30
The instructions and files below will allow you to create your own model of the virus! All you need is some spare time and a 3D printer. In addition, those without access to a 3D printer can still use the STL files to request printing from external services and then follow the instructions on painting […]

The Disastrous Life of Nsp15 Endoribonuclease NendoU

by
Dr. Sam Horrell
on
2020/07/27
Introduction Before I started writing this article, the first thing I did was to google the name of my protein “NendoU” and was greeted by Figure 1. Needless to say, this is not what I was expecting. So, if you’re an anime fan looking for Riki Nendou, a dutiful yet dull-witted boy who likes helping […]
Coloured version of a SARS-CoV-2 electrograph.

How do we know that Viruses exist?

by
Erik Nebelung
on
2020/12/22
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has a huge negative impact on our lives, a strong contrast to the incredible small size of the virus. This elusiveness poses major challenges to our understanding and ability to fight it. In times of fake news and politicians who are abusing the pandemic for their own agenda by claiming that the […]
SARS-COV2 Animated picture. Realistic surface and spike proteins with glycosylation. Image: Thomas Splettstoesser; www.scistyle.com

The invisible enemy

by
Ferdinand Kirsten
on
2020/04/15
SARS-CoV-2: Not new, but different The novel Coronavirus (2019‐nCoV) is classified as a large positive sense single stranded RNA-Virus from the family of betacoronaviruses. It shows high genetic similarity to SARS‐CoV and MERS‐CoV and is even closer related to the Bat-SARS-like corona virus, from which it most likely evolved. Even though it shows a lot […]

How SARS-CoV-2 takes over its host—NSP1, the Leader Protein

by
Lea von Soosten
on
2021/06/03
Introduction This protein is known under many different names such as non-structural protein NSP1, leader protein, host translation inhibitor and host shutoff factor. Some of these names already tell us about the function and importance of this relatively small protein. It is found in all betacoronaviruses1 and, even though it only contains 180 amino acids2, […]

VIP treatment: Very Important Proteins

by
Lea von Soosten
on
2020/12/07
This article has been written by Cameron Fyfe and Lea von Soosten. In the previous two articles we spoke of proteins involved in RNA synthesis and proteins involved in removing errors during that process. There are also proteins produced by SARS-CoV-2 that can mimic functions of the host cell to avoid its defense mechanisms. Eukaryotic cells […]

Rage Against the Machine with Remdesivir

by
Alexander Matthew Payne and Binisha Karki
on
2020/08/20
Introduction Have you heard that the coronavirus “mutates”? Or that there are “several strains” of it around the world? Sounds scary, right? However, the reality is that everything “mutates”. All organisms, over time, acquire differences in their genes, from bacteria to humans. You might be aware that this can happen when your DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) […]
Mutation card from the game pandemic. Photo by Andrea Thorn / Coronavirus Structural Taskforce.

The new mutation of SARS-CoV-2

by
Dr. Andrea Thorn
on
2020/12/23
Introduction It is known as VUI‑202012/01 or B.1.1.7 – the new mutation of the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2. It may be responsible for a sharply increased number of infections in the southeast of England (​1​), however, the scientific results leading to very strict lockdown measurements in the south of the UK, and travel restrictions across Europe are […]

I Hear SARS-CoV-2 Was Made in a Lab, What do you Think?

by
Dr. Sam Horrell
on
2020/06/02
Introduction The short answer to this question is “almost certainly not”. However, we live in an unprecedented time; where people are both tired of experts while simultaneously believing that having read a meme on social media makes one an expert. So, what do I even mean by “almost certainly”? Between the politicians and the scientists […]
aspirin tablets

Making a Virus-Killer

by
Dr. Andrea Thorn
on
2020/04/30
Pharmaceutical drugs can be found by chance, but today, most so-called active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are developed through a long, iterative process of designing and testing them. How? Targets and active ingredients Most medicinal drugs are small molecules with up to 70 atoms, which bind in the body to larger molecules, or macromolecules. These so-called […]

Spike Glycoprotein: Corona’s Key for Invasion

by
Sabrina Stäb
on
2020/06/05
COVID-19 is caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This virus has a characteristic virus hull featuring surface proteins which are commonly called “spikes”. Protruding from the viral hull like “spikes of a crown”, they give the coronavirus its name (corona = crown).  These proteins make the first contact with human cells and are akin to […]
BILD Schlagzeile zu Pressemitteilung

Opinion: Press release about "Coronavirus Origin Study" by Prof. Wiesendanger and Hamburg University

by
Dr. Andrea Thorn
on
2021/02/22
“The coronavirus has led to a worldwide crisis for over a year. In a new study, nanoscientist Prof. Dr. Roland Wiesendanger illuminates the origins of the virus. His findings conclude there are a number of quality sources indicating a laboratory accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the cause of the current pandemic.” This […]
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel

Babelian SARS-CoV-2 confusion

by
Dr. Andrea Thorn
on
2021/05/20
There is a secret code that virologists use to talk about the new coronavirus. This code is made up of synonymous words and abbreviations for each of the 28 proteins which facilitate the viral life cycle. In this article, we will shed some light on this mythical language. First of all, SARS-CoV-2 has three classes […]

Untangling nsp3 - Papain-like Protease

by
Kristopher Nolte
on
2020/06/28
An important drug target In the first part of this series we compared the protein nsp3 from SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 by sequence. Now we delve deeper into the differences between these two proteins and follow through by analyzing the structure of one domain of nsp3 in particular: papain-like protease. This domain is a very relevant […]
Protein crystals with polarised light, picture by Andrea Thorn

How can we measure the structures of macromolecules?

by
Ferdinand Kirsten
on
2020/05/18
Proteins are complex and fickle molecules. Experimental structure determination can teach us a lot about their function, but this is not the easiest thing to do. It’s not as simple as looking through a microscope, focussing, and taking a picture of the protein. It’s more like when you have a broken arm and the doctor […]
kristine-wook-gwuhbsRzOvo-unsplash

Vaccination Safety Management

by
Joshua Ezika
on
2021/04/01
Introduction: Vaccination is a great means of achieving public protection against diseases. The main goal of any vaccine manufacturer is to produce a vaccine that will be safe and effective in preventing the target disease. Before any vaccine is rolled out for mass vaccination or campaign, it must have met the required rigorous scientific and […]

SARS-CoV-2 Entry Animation from Iwasa Group – a little Christmas Present to the Scientific Community

by
Luise Kandler
on
2020/12/24
Overview During the Corona-dominated year 2020 scientists all over the world united and gathered as much information as possible to understand the exact mechanism behind the lifecycle of SARS-CoV-2. The main question was: how can we stop the virus from invading the human cell and causing COVID-19? A focus in the quest to answer this […]
Picture of corona virus main protease structure with labels.

3C-like Protease: A Promising Drug Target

by
Sabrina Stäb
on
2020/04/07
Due to a new outbreak of pulmonary diseases caused by SARS-CoV-2, the development of new drugs is essential to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. One promising drug target is the 3C-like protease, also known as main protease or MPro. Most of the virus proteins are translated as one long polypeptide chain, which then has to be […]
Structure of the RNA binding domain (right) and of the dimerization domain (left). PDB: 7CDZ, 7C22 Image: Oliver Kippes

The packaging of the RNA - Nucleocapsid proteins

by
Oliver Kippes
on
2021/02/22
1.    Introduction: With SARS-CoV-2 infections and related death rates continuing to rise worldwide and new variants emerging, the virus is still a great and present danger. Although we have gathered significant knowledge and the first vaccinations have started, new mutations can still set our efforts back and possibly make the virus even more potent. Thus, searches […]
surface_6vxs

Visualizing macromolecular structures

by
Ferdinand Kirsten
on
2020/04/07
Form follows function Proteins are big molecules, ranging from 400 to 20 000 atoms. They are the work horses of the living world – they break down what you eat, build your muscles, organise cell division, make up hair and skin. They are formed from amino acids as a long chain that then cross-links and […]

To Model, or Not to Model? That is the Question

by
Dr. Sam Horrell
on
2020/06/19
Crystallography has a problem. Some amino acid side chains in our structures simply can’t be seen in our maps (Fig. 1). Crystallographic maps represent many protein molecules in a crystal lattice, thousands of copies of the same molecule averaged over measurement time and unit cells. So, what happens with inherently flexible regions of our protein? […]
SARS-CoV-2 nsp3 Papain-like-protease (PDB-ID:6W9C)

Untangling Nsp3 of SARS-CoV-2

by
Kristopher Nolte
on
2020/04/22
The world holds its breath as the novel Coronavirus continues to spread across the world, bringing our lives to a halt. We have gathered a lot of knowledge about the virus but there are still many gaps to fill. The non-structural-protein 3 (nsp3) represents one of these gaps in our knowledge. As the largest protein […]

Spike Glycoprotein: The Key to Invade the Host Cell

by
Sabrina Stäb
on
2020/05/12
Overview The surface proteins, also called the “spike” or S-proteins, protrude from the viral envelope of SARS-CoV-2 like “spikes of a crown”, thus giving the coronavirus its name. They mediate entry into the host cell by binding to a cellular receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2), triggering a cascade of events leading to membrane fusion and […]

Accessory Protein 7a: Key Role in Pathogenesis?

by
Sabrina Stäb
on
2020/10/30
The genome of the novel SARS-CoV-2 codes for an ORF1a/ ORF1ab (open reading frame) polyprotein containing sixteen non-structural proteins (NSP) and four structural proteins. The genome also has multiple ORFs coding for accessory proteins through a frame shift. These accessory proteins are not necessary for viral replication but might play a key role in pathogenesis […]
This photograph depicted an Enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch (EDLB), Public Health scientist, who was testing a sample suspected of containing a bacterial toxin. (Picture: CDC | PHIL ID #23165)

What does the Pfizer press release really mean?

by
Dr. Andrea Thorn
on
2020/11/09
The press release A press release came out today from Pfizer and BioNTech SE with a announcement, you can read the full briefing here. Suffice it to say leading news outlets all over the world have jumped on the announcement with headlines like “Milestone vaccine offers 90% protection” (www.bbc.com, 9th Nov 2020, 17:00 GMT) or […]
the An image of the SARS-CoV-2 RdRp complex as density and folded structure,

Watching coronavirus multiply – the quest for structures of SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase

by
Luise Kandler
on
2021/04/15
A guest entry by Hauke Hillen In order for the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 to replicate, it has to achieve two basic tasks: It needs to make copies of its genome that can be packaged into new virus particles, and it needs to activate viral genes to produce the proteins that actually form new virus particles, […]

SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Testing in a German Hospital

by
Luise Kandler
on
2021/03/02
During Christmas holidays in Germany the SARS-CoV-2 infections still increased dramatically. In Miesbach, a small town near Munich and close to the Alpes, where daily winter tourism was booming during Christmas, the hospital of Agatharied exceeded the alarming value of Corona infections. In December, 50 new infections occurred among patients and staff from several different wards […]
This illustration shows the E protein as a pentameric ion channel embedded in a membrane.

The E protein: A small but mysterious structure

by
Luise Kandler
on
2020/07/10
Introduction The novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 incorporates various structural proteins in its protective coat. In order to find a potential drug target against the spreading pandemic, a lot of scientific research focusses on the characteristic spike glycoprotein as a therapeutic target. But apart from the spikes, several other structural proteins were found to decorate the virus […]

Where are the drugs?

by
Katharina Hoffmann
on
2021/06/17
Why are vaccines developed so quickly and treatments so slowly? In March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, 14 vaccines have entered the global market[1], and the number of immunized people grows every day. Even though vaccine development has never been this fast in history and will save many lives worldwide, people […]
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