The Wuhan Institute of Virology was said to have conducted gain-of-function research on coronaviruses which may possibly have caused the lab-leak origin of the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19 pandemic).
- In virology, gain-of-function research involves deliberately altering an organism in the lab, altering a gene, or introducing a mutation in a pathogen to study its transmissibility, virulence and immunogenicity.
- This is done by genetically engineering the virus and by allowing them to grow in different growth mediums, a technique called serial passage.
- Serial Passage refers to the process of growing bacteria or a virus in iterations. For instance, a virus may be grown in one environment, and then a portion of that virus population can be removed, and put into a new environment.
- This would allow researchers to study potential therapies and ways to control the disease better in future.
- Gain-of-function studies, which enhance viral yield and immunogenicity (relating to immune response), are required for vaccine development.