• Scientists around the globe are currently racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine to finally begin to fight back against the COVID-19 virus that’s wreaking havoc, infecting large masses of people, and leading to the loss of life around the globe.
  • New breakthroughs from researchers in Texas, as well as China, have shed new light on how the virus actually operates inside the human body, and the hope is that their research could bring everyone closer to the development of a vaccine.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Although the bad news has been mounting in recent days as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues its inexorable spread across the planet, scientists and researchers have made a significant breakthrough that gets them one step closer toward the development a desperately needed vaccine.

That breakthrough involves new insight into how the coronavirus actually works and operates inside the human body, which also explains why it’s so deadly and such a fearsome pandemic. Two teams of researchers — at Westlake University in Hangzhou, China, and at the Univesity of Texas at Austin — have now published the insights they’ve learned about how the virus gains entry into human cells and essentially hijacks them.

The scientists in Austin, who published their findings in mid-February in the journal Science, discovered that something called a spike protein is tantamount to the key that unlocks the door to cells so that the virus can enter. The team in China followed that up with research of their own, also published in Science in recent days, which lays out the rest of the picture — how that spike protein actually works.

The thinking is that understanding how the virus attaches itself to human cells could be a major step toward developing drugs that stop that process from taking place.

Meanwhile, these efforts come at the same time as other teams of scientists around the globe are racing to arrive at similar conclusions of their own. Scientists in Canada, for example, recently were able to successfully isolate and replicate the virus. Those researchers, from universities in Toronto and Ontario, used samples of the virus taking from two patients in Canada. “Now that we have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus [the agent responsible for COVID-19], we can share this with other researchers and continue this teamwork,” Dr. Arinjay Banerjee of McMaster University said in a statement about their work.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated a vaccine won’t be ready for the public for at least another year, though officials in China say they could have a vaccine ready for clinical trials and for use in emergencies as soon as April. In the US, the first clinical trials begin today, with 45 volunteers being given an early stage of the vaccine to see if it produces harmful side effects.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.