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

| | November 26, 2019
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

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.

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

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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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