The difficulty in developing a vaccine for RNA viruses lies in their ability to change rapidly and evolve to evade the host immune system and grow resistant to drug treatments. These RNA virus populations are often heterogeneous; composed of a group of related members, known as a quasispecies.
Until now, there have been no reliable systems to predict mutations responsible for the emergence of new viral strains. Traditional sequencing methods do not have the resolution needed to identify the mutations that create these subpopulations and thus cannot differentiate the mutations responsible for virus survival and adaptation.
Pine Biotech utilizes a combined biological and computational method to accurately measure the mutations of various RNA viruses, including Poliovirus. The biological method, known as CirSeq1, improves traditional sequencing methods. CirSeq allows for the identification of individual viral strains within a population, through highly accurate sequence data. In parallel, the utilization of our innovative sequencing platform allows for a new genetic approach to study the evolution of viruses within the context of their host. CirSeq works by converting viral RNAs into circular molecules. Viral mutations remain within the circular copies while errors are avoided.
When CirSeq was applied to poliovirus, researchers were able to define single nucleotide mutation rates and established a platform for studying the underlying evolution of virus populations in human cells. Additionally, this method can be used to determine the fitness of each base at every position in the genome, allowing analytical determination of which bases are neutral and which have been positively or negatively selected. This information can, in turn, be used to develop new innovative techniques.
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