The University of Utah received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant to study the structure of the SARS-COV-2. A key goal here is to understand how changing seasons will affects its spread. Michael Vershinin and Saveez Saffarian of the “U’s” Department of Physics & Astronomy will drive the research. The “Ute” pair are taking on a topic not as well known—how does climate impact COVID-19?
In this study, the researchers seeks to understand how the changing seasons will affect the novel coronavirus. The Utah-based physicists will create individual synthetic coronavirus particles without a genome, making the virus incapable of infection or replication. The “Ute” based investigators will thereafter test how the structure of the coronavirus withstands changes in humidity and temperature and under what conditions the virus falls apart.
It is hoped that the University of Utah-based results aid public health officials in their understanding as to how the virus behaves under various environmental conditions—such as in changing seasons or in microclimates such as air-conditioned offices.
Not a lot of Research into how Climate Impacts COVID-19
At the onset of the coronavirus, Vershinin and Saffarian dove deep into the scientific literature to learn as much as possible about corona and related viruses, such as influenza. They realized that many studies looked at the spread of influenza on an epidemiological level. There are fewer answers about how climate and specific conditions effect a single virus particle. Both researchers bring decades of experience working in the nanoscale. Vershinin lab’s specialty is using optical tweezers, a tool that enables him to probe individual molecules just a few atoms across.
Center for Cell Genome Sciences, College of Science
The researchers are members of the Center for Cell and Genome Sciences in the College of Science, where scientists who apply physics, chemistry and biology work alongside each other and can form collaborations rapidly—a key advantage in the fight against the virus.
Michael Vershinin, Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Saveez Saffarian, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences