Department of Immunology

March 24, 2020

COVID-19: Seattle Times Spotlights Gale Lab Work on Coronavirus

Seattle Times: ‘There’s a lot we don’t know’: UW researchers look at how coronavirus turns body against itself and kills

Last Tuesday, a scientist working in a secure upper-floor laboratory in the University of Washington Medical Center’s South Lake Union campus cracked open a vial containing one of the first samples of live SARS-C0V-2 virus, with a goal of better understanding how and why it kills.

The disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, has proven particularly lethal to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, and the scientists at the school’s Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease (CIIID) have been tasked with trying to understand why in these cases the new virus overwhelms the body’s natural defenses, while in most people it causes only moderate or even mild illness.

The new virus has some unusual characteristics that haven’t been seen in other SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreaks, both in the way it attacks the lungs and how it can infect people quietly, where they will have few or no symptoms for days or weeks but still spread the disease,  said Michael Gale, a professor of immunology at the UW and the center’s director.

“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Gale said. “We don’t know how it interacts with the cell. We don’t now how it invades it. We don’t know how it overcomes the cell’s innate immune system.”

These are all questions that Gale and his team of scientists, working with others around the world, hope to answer as they begin to understand the pathology of the novel coronavirus. That information, in turn, will inform both treatment and prevention of the disease, he said Read the full article here…