Directed evolution tool could force viruses to churn out new drugs ‘in a matter of days’

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Evolution is one of nature’s most impressive forces, allowing organisms to adapt to changing environments to survive. By harnessing and guiding that process scientists have managed to manipulate micro-organisms into producing useful new drugs and materials, but it’s still a time-consuming process. Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) have developed a new tool that speeds up the process in mammalian cells, creating new therapeutics in a matter of days.

The new system has been dubbed VEGAS, which stands for Viral Evolution of Genetically Actuating Sequences. It’s based around the Sindbis virus, because of its ability to quickly spread and mutate. The team introduce the virus into a culture dish of cells, and try to guide it to mutate so that it can perform a specific function in those mammalian cells – say, switch on certain genes or activate a protein. The scientists then tune the environment to conditions that allow only those desired mutant genes to thrive.

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Directed evolution remains a promising avenue for developing new drugs, and this breakthrough helps it happen on a more useful timescale.

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Read full, original post: Fast new directed evolution technique makes viruses create drug proteins in days

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