Biotech Updates

CRISPR Gene Editing Stops COVID-19 from Replicating in Infected Human Cells

July 21, 2021

In a major step towards a new treatment for COVID-19 and future pandemic viruses, scientists at The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac) and The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) in Australia have found a way to stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from replicating in infected human cells.

This breakthrough comes from a 2019 Peter Mac research by Dr. Mohamed Fareh and Professor Joe Trapani who showed that the CRISPR gene editing tool could be used to eliminate abnormal RNAs that drive children's cancers. Together with Director Doherty Institute Professor Sharon Lewin and Dr. Wei Zhao, the same approach has been shown to suppress replication of the RNA virus SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in a test tube model. The research team used CRISPR-Cas13b which binds to target RNAs and degrades part of the virus' genome needed to replicate inside cells. The collaborating team will now move to test this approach in animal studies and eventually a clinical trial.

According to Professor Lewin, the pandemic response was focused on rolling out protective vaccines but the need for treatments specific to COVID-19 patients remains urgent. Dr. Fareh said there were signs this approach could also be applied to a host of existing viruses and be a game-changer for how they are currently treated.

For more details, read the article on the Peter Mac website.

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