In a major development capable of helping in drug formulations for COVID-19, the Institute of Life Sciences here has successfully established in vitro cultures of the novel coronavirus from the patient samples using vero cells, a top ILS official said on Monday. In vitro culture refers to studies of biological properties in test tubes instead of humans or animals. They are often contrasted to in vivo (in life) studies done inside organisms.
Seventeen virus cultures have been established from swab samples originating from different locations of the
country with varying virus loads by the ILS, an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology, officials said.
The vero cell culture technology is used worldwide to develop inactivated whole cell-based vaccines. The vero cell
line is the most widely accepted continuous cell line (CCL) by regulatory authorities and has been used for over 30 years for the production of polio and rabies viruses. “It is a significant development as only three other laboratories from India have reported establishing virus cultures till date,” ILS Director Ajay Parida said.
This has potential application in testing and screening for possible drug targets, formulations as well as possible use in vaccine development. Cultured SARS-CoV-2 can also be used in developing antibodies or antidotes, testing of antibodies and identification of effective therapeutic agents, he said.
Parida expressed confidence that this will be a useful resource for the country in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic as well as for future preparedness. In the long run, these viral cultures will be useful for academicians as well as industry for testing and validating various antiviral products contributing to diagnostic, cure and management of COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
These virus cultures have been established by the ILS team led by scientists Soma Chattopadhyay and Gulam H Syed
following international protocols and all safety precautions in the Biosafety Level 3 facility, an official said. Studies using genome sequencing approaches are underway for understanding stability and detecting any mutation in established cultures.
Vitro culture involves studies conducted with microorganisms, cells outside their usual surroundings, while vero cells are host cells for growing virus. ILS has been supporting the Odisha government in augmenting testing for COVID-19 since April this year and has tested around 45,000 samples from as many as 26 districts of the state.
The institute has been selected as one of the 16 in the country for setting up a biorepository of clinical samples for furthering research and development efforts for COVID-19. Apart from ILS, there other institutes – NIV, Pune,
Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and RMRC, Dibrugarh have reported establishing virus cultures.