However, the study was performed in lab dishes and has not yet been tested in animals or people, meaning treatment based on the method could take years.CRISPR is a tool that allows researchers to accurately edit ADN. It is based on a natural defense system used in bacteria that allows microbes to target and destroy the genetic material of virus, Previously reported live science.
In the new study, published Tuesday (July 13) in the journal Communication Nature, the researchers used a CRISPR system that targets and destroys strands of ARN, rather than DNA. Specifically, their system uses an enzyme called Cas13b, which cleaves single strands of RNA, like those found in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (Cas13b is similar to Cas9, the enzyme most commonly used in CRISPR gene editing technology, but Cas9 cleaves DNA while Cas13b cleaves RNA.)
Researchers designed CRISPR-Cas13b to target specific sites on SARS-CoV-2 RNA; once the enzyme binds to RNA, it destroys the part of the virus needed to replicate, according to one declaration from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center in Victoria, Australia, who collaborated on the research.
“Once the virus is recognized, the CRISPR enzyme is activated and cuts the virus,” said lead author of the study, Dr Sharon Lewin, of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne. AFP.
A report: 10 amazing things scientists just did with CRISPR
The researchers also found that their method worked even when new mutations were introduced into the SARS-CoV-2 genome, including those seen in alpha coronavirus variant, first discovered in the UK.
Effective Vaccines against covid-19 are currently distributed around the world, but there remains a “clear and urgent need” for effective treatments for the disease, the authors said. They noted that there are “serious concerns” that the virus is evolving to “escape” current vaccines.
An ideal treatment would be an antiviral drug that patients take soon after being diagnosed with COVID-19. “This approach – test and treat – would only be feasible if we had a cheap, oral, nontoxic antiviral available. This is what we hope to achieve one day with this genetic scissor approach, ”Lewin told AFP.
Although the new study is a first step towards such a treatment, it will likely be years before this method can be turned into a widely available treatment, AFP reported. The researchers now plan to test the method in animal models, and possibly to conduct clinical trials in humans.
Drugs that use CRISPR technology have not yet been approved to treat diseases, but several studies are underway to test CRISPR-based therapies in humans as a treatment for various diseases, including cancer and VIH.
Originally posted on Live Science.