OREANDA-NEWS. Scientists from the Belgorod State National Research University (NRU "BelGU") and the Institute of Gene Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBG RAS) have created a new line of humanized mice susceptible to coronavirus infection (SARS-CoV-2). These transgenic animals, according to the authors of the study, will help in studying the pathogenesis and conducting preclinical trials of new vaccines and drugs for COVID-19. The results of the work are presented in the journal "Transgenic Research".

The lack of laboratory animals sensitive to SARS-CoV-2 is the main factor limiting the development of vaccines and drugs for COVID-19, the authors of the work believe. To solve this problem, specialists from the Belgorod State University and the IBG RAS created transgenic mice by introducing a gene that encodes the human SARS-CoV-2 entry receptor into the cell (ACE2).

According to BelSU experts, human ACE2 is embedded in the mouse genome as part of a complex structure that allows the transgene to be activated in different tissues "on demand." This will allow studying the mechanisms of damage to individual organs, since after activation, not the whole organism will be sensitive to the virus, but only selected tissues. In addition, this approach allows one to regulate the sensitivity to the virus and makes the model biologically safe: before activation, transgenic mice are generally immune to SARS-CoV-2.

As part of the study, the scientists also introduced the green fluorescent protein GFP into the mouse genome, which is localized to human ACE2 and facilitates the detection of cells and tissues susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Experts believe that this strain of mice will speed up testing of vaccines and drugs, and will also help to study the role of various organs in infection with SARS-CoV-2 and the development of complications associated with COVID-19.