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Can we recode the human genome to resist viruses?

| | May 4, 2018

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

[T]wo years in, an ambitious project to synthesize genomes — including human ones — is moving on from its shaky start and plunging in to the practical work of creating better genomes than nature did. As some 200 scientists participating in “Genome Project-write” met in Boston…the group announced its first target: creating cells that could never be infected by viruses, and that perhaps would also be resistant to other killers.

Resistance to viruses and more would be accomplished by a process called recoding, which depends on the fact that the genetic code — which sequences of DNA letters “spell” which amino acids — is redundant. Each three-letter string of DNA letters, called a codon, codes for the production of a particular amino acid.

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Why bother? Because viruses’ genes include the redundant codons. If a virus entered a cell and, as is its wont, tried to take over the cell’s genetic machinery to produce more viruses, [participant Jef] Boeke said, “it would get stuck.” It wouldn’t be able to get the cell to produce viral proteins and therefore viruses — which is what happens with a viral infection. “That’s recoding for viral resistance.”

If recoded human cells were resistant to HIV, hepatitis, influenza, and every other virus, they could be the basis for stem cell therapeutics.

Read full, original post: Genome ‘writers’ set their first goal: recoding human cells to resist viruses

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