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    Immune cells still recognize Omicron variant

    Omicron’s genome is loaded with mutations — more than 30 in the region that codes for the spike protein, used in COVID-19 vaccines — meaning that the efficacy of antibodies raised against previous variants could be compromised.
    Gene Synthesis Oligo Synthesis Site-directed Mutagenesis DNA Cloning Omicron
    When it comes to coronavirus immunity, antibodies have stolen the limelight. Researchers are monitoring people’s levels of antibodies — particularly ‘neutralizing antibodies’ that directly prevent the virus from replicating — with bated breath. A drop in neutralizing-antibody levels correlates with an increased risk of symptomatic infection. Antibodies are also easier to study than T cells, making it easier to analyse them in large, international vaccine trials.

    But the rise of coronavirus variants has shown how fragile antibody-based immunity can be in the face of a changing virus. Neutralizing antibodies bind to a handful of regions on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, used as a template for many COVID-19 vaccines. Mutate those sites, and antibody protection fades.

    T cells, however, are more resilient. These cells perform a variety of immune functions, including acting as ‘killer’ cells that destroy virus-infected cells. By killing infected cells, T cells can limit the spread of infection — and potentially reduce the chance of serious illness.

    Omicron overpowers key COVID antibody treatments in early tests

    T-cell levels do not tend to fade as quickly as antibodies after an infection or vaccination. And because T cells can recognize many more sites along the spike protein than can antibodies, they are better able to recognize mutated variants. “What sounds like a lot of mutations doesn’t dent the T-cell response,” says Burgers.

    So far, computer and lab analyses suggest that this is the case for Omicron. Several research groups have cross-referenced the mutations in Omicron with sites in the SARS-CoV-2 genome that are known targets of T cells. They have found that the majority of sites that T cells recognize are present in Omicron.

    Gene Synthesis Oligo Synthesis  Site-directed Mutagenesis  DNA Cloning Omicron