Australian researchers have used the technique known as “molecular scissors” which allows you to cut the ribbon of DNA or RNA at a specific location. Animal testing will begin soon.
Researchers have succeeded in preventing the replication of the coronavirus in human cells in the laboratory using the Crispr genome editing technique, according to a study published on Tuesday, which could open the door to new treatments against Covid-19.
Australian scientists used an enzyme that binds to the virus’s RNA and breaks down the part of the genome it needs to replicate inside cells, preventing it from multiplying and going to infect people. other cells. After these in vitro results, published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers hope to start animal trials soon.
Cut DNA at a specific location
Crispr molecular scissor technology has revolutionized genome manipulation through its precision and greater ease of use compared to previous tools. It allows you to cut the DNA or RNA ribbon at a specific, chosen location, and to modify the genetic code inside the cell.
Its application has shown promising results in eliminating genetic mutations leading to the development of cancers in children and clinical trials are underway for the treatment of other types of cancers and rare genetic diseases, including sickle cell anemia, beta thalassemia. and disease causing blindness.
Years before it was operational
In the study published Tuesday, researchers adapted this tool to recognize Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, its lead author, Sharon Lewin, of the Peter Doherty Institute told AFP. for Infection and Immunity, in Melbourne. “Once the virus is recognized, the Crispr enzyme is activated and cuts the virus into pieces,” she continued.
The technique was also effective in stopping viral replication in virus samples that belonged to the Alpha variant lineage, which emerged in England at the end of 2020. “We still need better treatment for people hospitalized with Covid. The current possibilities (the drug treatments available: editor’s note) are limited and, in the best case, only reduce the risk of death by 30% “, underlines Sharon Lewin.
Hope for HIV too
But it will still be “years, not months” before the Crispr technique translates into widespread treatments, warns the director of the Doherty Institute.
The molecular scissors approach may however be useful in the fight against Covid-19, she hopes, by helping “one day” to develop “an oral, inexpensive and non-toxic antiviral drug”. This research also opens the door to the treatment of other viral diseases “including influenza, Ebola and possibly HIV”, adds Mohamed Fareh, of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, co-author of the study.