A fundamental study on what's making the virus very effective is currently being carried out, and what these researchers from Japan recently discovered is that triangular-shaped spikes are making COVID-19 transmission succeed.

A SciTechDaily report said that within the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University's Mathematics, Mechanics and Materials Unit, Dr. Vikash Chaurasia and Professor Eliot Fried have been using energy minimization technique to observe charged proteins on biological particles.

Earlier, they researched cholesterol molecules but when COVID-19 hit, the researchers realized that the methods they had developed could be applied to this then-new virus.

The two collaborated with researchers Mona Kanso and Professor Jeffery Giacomin from Queen's University in Canada, to closely observe SARS-CoV-2 and find out how the shape of the virus's spikes, officially called 'peplomers', are helping its success at transmitting so prolifically.

This study entitled "Peplomer bulb shape and coronavirus rotational diffusivity featured," was published in Physics of Fluids.

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Science Times - COVID-19 Transmission: Scientists in Japan Discovery Triangular-Shaped Spikes as Key to Spread of the Virus
(Photo: NIAID on Wikimedia Commons)
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.

Triangular-Shaped Spikes

Dr. Chaurasia said that when an individual envisions a single coronavirus particle, it is typical to think of a sphere with a lot of spikes tinier sphered distributed through its surface. This, the researcher added, "is the way the virus was originally molded."

However, this model is a rough sketch and over the past year, the researchers have come to discover much more about what the virus looks like.

Instead, Chaurasia pointed out, COVID-19 particle's spikes are actually shaped like three tiny spheres piled together to form a triangle shape. This is an essential consideration since the viral particle's shape an impacts its ability to scatter.

One more consideration was the charge of every spike. The scientists assumed that each is charged equally.

As indicated in the study, the same charges always repel each other. If there are just two spikes on the particle and they have equal charges, they will be positioned at either pole, as apart from each other as possible.

Why the COVID-19 Transmission is a Success

Earlier on, the scientists studied a viral particle that had 74 spikes. For this new research, they used the same particle although they switched out the single-bead spikes for what they described as the three-bead triangles.

Then they did this, the particle's rotational diffusivity was found to decline by 39 percent. Furthermore, this trend was discovered to continue with the addition of more spikes.

This, the researchers said, was an important finding. Having rotational diffusivity would mean that the virus particles could better align and attach themselves to objects and humans.

Therefore, this study proposes that the triangular-shaped spikes have been contributors to the success of COVID-19.

Researchers at OIST and Queen's University intend to continue collaborating on this kind of study to shed light on the success of COVID-19.

The researchers at Queen's University have received a Mitacs Globalink Research Award to allow for Mona Kanso, lead author, to travel between Japan and Canada and work more closely with OIST.

A related report is shown on Thermo Scientific EM & Spectroscopy's YouTube video below:

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