Australian scientists have found a way to destroy the SARS-CoV-2 virus in human cells

Tram Ho

In a new study published today in Nature Communications, scientists say they have used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to successfully block transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in human infected cells.

That means it could be a potential treatment for COVID-19, the missing piece we’ve been looking for since the early days of the pandemic. Besides the vaccine, the cure for COVID-19 is the weapon that will help the world win the pandemic with the fewest deaths.

In addition, in a scenario where the pandemic could never end, where the SARS-CoV-2 virus could evolve into a seasonal flu-like strain and repeat infections in waves each year, the role of a COVID-19 treatments are becoming even more important.

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A molecular scissors can cut the SARS-CoV-2 virus

If you don’t know, what is CRISPR, it stands for ” Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats ” which roughly translates as ” Group of symmetric short segments frequently repeated “. This is a mechanism that ancient bacteria used to fight invading viruses.

First, the bacteria collects foreign RNA codes that the virus passes into its cells. It then integrates this code into its DNA in the region where the short CRISPR repeats are located. This genomic region acts as a bulletin board, pasting into the RNA of wanted viruses.

Next, CRISPR with that “ reporter” RNA is transcribed into short pieces of RNA (called crRNA_CRISPR-derived RNA). These crRNAs arm themselves with a protein called Cas, which is likened to a molecular scissors capable of cutting all the genetic material such as DNA and RNA.

Because the CRISPR system had previously recognized the viral RNA, the Cas protein on it would seek to destroy and sever all the genetic material of any viruses they could find. This directly destroys the virus and makes it impossible for them to multiply.

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That’s exactly what scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Australia did in their new study. But instead of using the ” cas9 ” version of the cut protein that we usually see in CRISPR studies, this time they used the enzyme Cas13b.

The tweaked version of CRISPR-Cas13b allows it to recognize RNA sequences on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. ” And once identified, the CRISPR-binding enzyme is activated to break down the virus, ” said Sharon Lewin, lead author of the study.

Because the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the cell has been destroyed, it will no longer be able to replicate and multiply. The viral load in the cell will then drop and you should theoretically be cured.

“We urgently need to find a better treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Our options are very limited right now. At best, they only help reduce risk. mortality down to 30%, ” Lewin said.

“In our study, we used CRISPR to target several segments of the viral genome – both very stable, unchanged genes and highly variable ones. Results showed that in all cases it worked well in killing the virus.”

The scientists add that their technique can prevent the replication of both SARS-CoV-2 variants, by precisely targeting the pieces of RNA that they share with the original strain of the virus. . This is a good sign in the context that SARS-CoV-2 has appeared vaccine-resistant variants.

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CRISPR, a molecular scissors that can slice the SARS-CoV-2 virus into pieces.

CRISPR: Versatile tool that can solve all future pandemics

Lewin and the team say they will soon test their method on animals and aim for clinical trials in humans. However, when it comes to a genomic tool like CRISPR, the trial period would be ” not in months but perhaps in years”.

Therefore, the team says that in times of urgency, pharmaceutical companies are better off focusing on developing a simple antiviral drug that can be taken by mouth and can be taken by patients as soon as possible. positive test result for COVID-19.

This will keep them from getting very sick and ease the pressure on hospitals and health care systems.

But if so, why did Lewin and his team choose CRISPR as a tool against the SARS-CoV-2 virus? Isn’t it just more complicated, requires longer testing time, and is like ” killing chickens with a buffalo scalpel “?

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The problem turned out to be that CRISPR could be a versatile tool.

In the short term to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, we may only need a cheap antiviral drug. But in a long battle with all other pathogens, including the flu or HIV, CRISPR will prove its potential.

“Unlike conventional antivirals, the strength of this tool lies in its design flexibility and adaptability, making it a suitable drug against a multitude of viruses that cause disease from flu, Ebola to HIV, ” said study co-author Mohamed Fareh of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center.

Therefore, CRISPR could become the solution to COVID-19, in the event that we do not have a cheap antiviral drug against SARS-CoV-2, and also new pandemics, caused by completely different strains of the virus. entirely new if they appear in the future.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Refer to Sciencealert, Vjsonline

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Source : Genk