Gene editing has been used to block the transmission of viruses in animals. This method is more precise and efficient than previous methods, such as serotherapy or vaccine-based gene therapy. It also works on other pathogens like fungi that cause tropical diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and leishmaniasis. More work needs to be done before this will be available for humans. Still, it shows promise for developing a way to prevent the transmission of deadly viral infections without resorting to drugs with side effects or vaccines with uncertain effectiveness.
Gene Editing And Covid-19
Scientists have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to successfully block the transmission of the Covid-19 virus in infected human cells from across the globe. Previous research has shown that CRISPR can be used to prevent transmission of HIV, Zika virus, and other pathogens in animal models, but Covid-19 is a new kind of coronavirus for which no vaccine or antiviral drug exists.
Scientists have developed an enzyme that can degrade the genome of a novel coronavirus. The team used CRISPR-Cas13b to bind with RNA sequences on the virus responsible for COVID-19, which lead author Sharon Lewin from Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said was explicitly designed to recognize SARS-CoV2.
Sharon Lewin from Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity also said, “Once the virus is recognized, the CRISPR enzyme is activated and chops up the virus,” she said.
“We targeted several parts of the virus – parts that are very stable and don’t change and parts that are highly changeable – and all worked very well in chopping up the virus.”
What Is Gene Editing
Gene editing is the process in which particular genes are removed, modified, or replaced. This is accomplished by allowing a gene to be opened up so that other parts can be deleted and edited. The cells are then put back together and allowed to grow into a living organism with the new genes.
Similarly, the virus that causes AIDS is a retrovirus. Retroviral particles can incorporate themselves into the cells of their host, but when they break open, they release new viruses which cannot infect other cells in the same way as retroviruses. The HIV-ROD gene encodes for reverse transcriptase and lacks an enzyme called protease that would stop it from being replicated by copying itself over and over again so mutations could accumulate without affecting its ability to function as normal genes do.
Gene editing can be used to change these special enzymes to make them more functional so that harmful mutations don’t build up during replication while also maintaining viral functionality. Changing how those two components work together makes this possible because reverse transcriptases need proteases to cause the HIV virus to replicate.