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Breakthrough Cleveland State University Research Sheds New Light on the Virus that Causes COVID-19

Human-viral cell communication insights could lead to improved antiviral treatments and better mRNA-based vaccines

CLEVELAND (November 12, 2021) – New research from Cleveland State University could lead to improved antiviral treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 and similar viruses. An article published this week in the American Society of Microbiology’s Journal of Virology provides significant insights into the host-virus relationship of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The research team, led by Barsanjit Mazumder, Ph.D., professor of molecular genetics at CSU’s Department of Biological Geological and Environmental Sciences and the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease, includes fellow CSU colleagues Abhijit Basu, Ph.D., senior staff scientist and postdoctoral research associate and Anton A. Komar, Ph.D., professor and director, Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease.

The team also includes Srinivasa Penumutchu, Ph.D. and Blanton S. Tolbert, Ph.D. in Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Chemistry, as well as Kien Nguyen Ph.D., Uri Mbonye, Ph.D. and Jonathan Karn, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, and director, Case Center for AIDS Research at the CWRU School of Medicine.

“We discovered a novel communication route between the SARS-CoV-2 virus and human lung cells,” Dr. Mazumder said. “This work showed how the COVID-19 virus uses a specific signal within its own RNA sequence in communication with the signal generated from human lung cells. The mechanistic insights about this communication may be crucial in developing the next-generation of mRNA vaccines and targeted therapeutic strategies against this virus.”

The research team showed that communication between the spike (S) protein in the virus with the specific receptor on the surface of lung cells leads to the change in the expression of the viral genetic information inside the cells that may be important to what is known as “viral fitness,” or the “capacity of a virus to produce infectious progeny in a given environment.”

“This work will have real-world ramifications and could change the trajectory of the research on SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Meredith Bond, Ph.D., CSU interim vice president of research and innovation and dean of the College of Sciences and Health Professions. “It reflects greatly on the expertise of CSU’s faculty, the strength of interdisciplinary intercollegiate collaboration and affirms Cleveland’s world-class stature for research and medical innovation.”

Abhijit Basu, Ph.D., Barsanjit Mazumder, Ph.D. and Anton Komar, Ph.D.

Abhijit Basu, Ph.D., Barsanjit Mazumder, Ph.D. and Anton Komar, Ph.D. (l to r)


About Cleveland State University
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at