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RNA modulation during infection and SARS-CoV-2 testing - 2 February 2021

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Speaker: Dr Rocio Martinez-Nunez, School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, King's College London

Host: Jody Rosenblatt

Asthma is the most common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, affecting ~350M people. ~5-10% of patients have severe asthma, which remains uncontrolled despite treatment with steroids. The inflammatory profile of these patients has been extensively characterised; however, the mechanisms underpinning severe asthma remain poorly understood. We are investigating the role of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) in inflammation and antiviral immunity in the context of asthma disease.

We have previously employed Frac-seq (subcellular fractionation and RNA-seq) in primary bronchial epithelial cells (BECs) from healthy controls (HC) and severe asthma patients (SA). Frac-seq compares total and polyribosome-bound mRNAs; this allowed us to discover a genome-wide disconnection between differences in transcription vs translation in asthma and several RBPs dysregulated in severe asthma. Our new data show that UPF1, a helicase involved in RNA decay, is down regulated in BECs from patients with asthma, where it modulates the pathophysiology of rhinovirus, the main cause of asthma exacerbations. STAU1, a mediator of RNA stability/translation also directly binds the rhinovirus genome and is essential for antiviral interferon production.

My interest in RNA biology and infection led me to start working on diagnostics for SARS-CoV-2 detection when the pandemic hit in March. I will speak with you about installing open source robotics in 18 hospitals around Spain as well as the testing facility that we host at Guy’s hospital, where we keep validating new methods for faster, reliable and cheaper SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis.

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