The Coronavirus Unveiled: Seeing the Unseen through Computational Microscopy

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Thursday 13th January at 10 am Dr. Elisa Fadda will give a talk entitled "The Coronavirus Unveiled: Seeing the Unseen through Computational Microscopy" via Zoom. It should be suitable for second-level biology and chemistry teachers and students.

Complex carbohydrates are the most abundant biomolecules in Nature and yet the most mysterious, appropriately referred to as “the black matter of biology”.

Broadly known to the public for their role as nutrients (e.g. starch) and as the major constituents of plant cell walls (e.g. cellulose), carbohydrates (also known as glycans) play fundamental roles in the biology of human health and disease, covering our own cells as a ‘fur’, mediating virtually all interactions between the cell and its environment, and functioning as the first port of entry for viral, bacterial and toxin infection. Enveloped viruses, such as coronaviruses, have evolved to use glycans from the host to cloak themselves, as an effective strategy to evade immune recognition and response. Yet, the study of how carbohydrates perform all these fundamental tasks is extremely difficult because their chemical nature and biological origin make them invisible through most experimental methods.

In this talk, I will present how in my lab we use high-performance computing (HPC) molecular simulations to study carbohydrates and to advance our knowledge and understanding of the many roles that they play in SARS-CoV-2 infection. More specifically, I will focus on how we have recently identified a unique functional role of the glycan shield in the activation of the spike protein1 and how viral evolution has optimized the invisible carbohydrate cloak (or glycan shield) to enhance infection2.

Biology and Chemistry teachers can register their class on this link: