UNL researchers use plants to study COVID variants

From studying plants to studying COVID–19, a group of virology experts at UNL have been working since last April to break down the development of the coronavirus.
Mgn 1280x960 10416b00 Rpjei

Lincoln, Neb. (KLKN) – From studying plants to studying COVID–19, a group of virology experts at UNL have been working since last April to break down the development of the coronavirus.

“At the molecular level, plant viruses and human viruses are very, very similar. Studying plant viruses, we have learned that they change and they adapt to new plants to the environments,” Hernan Garcia-Ruiz, an associate professor at UNL, said.

Starting at the base of COVID–19, they have been able to watch variants mutate from the original strain and predict how they will grow and develop.

“They’re made to evolve, they’re made to change, that’s the same thing we see in plants. It’s why we have to create resistant varieties, we have to keep creating new resistant varieties, because ours is really designed to keep changing,” Katherine LaTourette, a PhD student at UNL, said.

With four notable variants detected in the U.S. so far, their research is aimed at predicting any new variants and even providing more information when it comes to vaccines. With new variants expected throughout the next months and years, the two suspect booster shots will be necessary.

They say it all starts with getting the first vaccine to prevent infection from the get go.

“If you can minimize the number of people who get infected, you minimize the chances of new variants. Those vaccine breaking variants occurring, but likely in the future,” LaTourette said.

Categories: Coronavirus, Nebraska News, News