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Structural Task Force

Coronavirus Blog

Floating coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

What does the Coronavirus really look like?

by
on
July 31, 2020
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
December 10, 2020
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 […]

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

by
Joshua Ezika
on
February 22, 2021
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
September 1, 2020
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. […]
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
July 30, 2020
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
on
July 27, 2020
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
December 22, 2020
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
April 15, 2020
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 […]

VIP treatment: Very Important Proteins

by
Lea von Soosten
on
December 7, 2020
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

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
on
December 23, 2020
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
on
June 2, 2020
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
on
April 30, 2020
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
June 5, 2020
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
on
February 22, 2021
“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 […]

Untangling nsp3 - Papain-like Protease

by
Kristopher Nolte
on
June 28, 2020
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
May 18, 2020
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 […]

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

by
Luise Kandler
on
December 24, 2020
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
April 7, 2020
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
February 22, 2021
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
April 7, 2020
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
on
June 19, 2020
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
April 22, 2020
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
May 12, 2020
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
October 30, 2020
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
on
November 9, 2020
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 […]

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

by
Luise Kandler
on
March 2, 2021
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
July 10, 2020
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 […]
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