Can vaccines be supercharged by CRISPR, creating ‘one-and-done’ virus protection?

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Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Areca Wilson

Vaccines are risky or ineffective in people with compromised immune systems, they don’t even exist for several viral diseases, and flu vaccines, in particular, often fail in the elderly.

All of which gave scientists in half a dozen labs the same idea: Rescue one of the oldest biotechnologies with one of the newest — CRISPR.

[I]mmunologist Justin Taylor of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center [had] an idea — skip the vaccine. Injecting antibodies directly has been shown to protect premature babies against respiratory syncytial virus.

But the antibodies generally last only 21 days or so, and therefore have to be given again and again. So why not create a one-and-done therapy: use CRISPR-Cas9 to genetically reprogram B cells to produce, and keep producing, whatever antibody someone needs?

Related article:  CRISPR guacamole, anyone? Gene-edited avocados could survive disease, cold climates

The biggest hurdle would be keeping viruses from outsmarting antibodies produced by CRISPR just as they do antibodies produced by vaccines, by tweaking their antigens just enough for the antibodies not to fit them anymore. But Taylor believes it’s possible to engineer B cells to defeat that antigenic drift, “even if you need five antibodies to cover that,” he said, something that is well within the capabilities of CRISPR.

Read full, original post: Vaccines don’t work against some viruses. CRISPR might one day fix that

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