New use for CRISPR: Keeping viruses like Zika and influenza from making people sick

| | November 26, 2019
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It’s not easy to treat viral infections. Just ask anyone with a bad cold or a case of the flu.

But scientists in Massachusetts think they may have a new way to stop viruses from making people sick by using what amounts to a pair of molecular scissors, known as CRISPR.

What’s different is that the antiviral approach researchers at the Broad Institute in Cambridge are using involves a form of CRISPR called Cas13 that targets specific regions of RNA, not DNA.

RNA is a chemical cousin of DNA. Many viruses, including flu and Zika, package their genetic instructions in RNA instead of DNA.

Related article:  CRISPR gene editing could yield drought-tolerant tomatoes and kiwis that grow in salty soil

When a virus infects a cell in our bodies, it hijacks the cell’s molecular machinery to make copies of itself.

So for therapy, “we need to be able to cut the virus at a fast enough rate to slow down replication or to stop replication from happening,” says [postdoc] Cameron Myhrvold.

“There’s still a bunch of things we want to work out, but we feel pretty confident that this will work as a therapy if it can be delivered in the right way,” [researcher Pardis] Sabeti says.

Read full, original post: Molecular Scissors Could Help Keep Some Viral Illnesses At Bay

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