With the CRISPR method, an Australian research team has succeeded in stopping the coronaviruses from multiplying in the laboratory.
With the help of a method, Australian researchers have succeeded in stopping the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus from multiplying in an infected cell. This is the result of a study published on Tuesday in the journal “Nature Communications”. In the long term, according to Sharon Lewin’s team from the Australian Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, better treatment of Covid 19 patients could be possible.
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CRISPR – the powerful tool of genetic engineering
The scientists used a type of gene scissors “CRISPR” with which parts of the genetic material can be cut out and replaced. For their experiments under laboratory conditions, they used the enzyme Crispr / Cas13b. This binds certain RNA sequences of the coronavirus and switches off the part that the virus needs to replicate in the infected cell.
With CRISPR DNA can be cut and modified in a targeted manner. Genes can be inserted, removed or switched off. This works with individual bases and entire gene segments, even in several places at the same time.
“As soon as the virus is recognized, the CRISPR enzyme is activated and cuts the virus,” explains Lewin. According to her, the method works both for parts of the virus “that are very stable and do not change” and for those “that are highly changeable”. The technology has also proven to be effective with virus variants such as the alpha mutant. So far, however, the method has only been tested under laboratory conditions. The team now hopes to be able to try them out on animals.
Years to go until practical use
So far, there are only a few and only partially effective treatment options for Covid-19. “We still need better treatments for people who are in hospital for Covid-19,” said Lewin. “Our current options here are limited and at best reduce the risk of death by 30 percent.”
The use of the CRISPR technique in general medicine is likely to be “years, not months,” away, said Lewin. Nevertheless, it could prove useful in the fight against Corona.
Ideally a “simple drug”
According to the researcher, the ideal treatment would be a simple antiviral drug that is taken as soon as possible after a positive corona test to prevent a severe course. According to Lewin, the researchers hope that their findings will contribute to the development of such a cheap, oral drug.