Scientists create gene-targeting antiviral agent aimed at coronavirus

Breakthrough gene-targeting weapon to fight coronavirus is currently in development by scientists.

| Jun 5, 2020 at 3:31 am CDT

Researchers have created a gene-targeting antiviral agent that is now going to be used as a weapon against the coronavirus.

Scientists create gene-targeting antiviral agent aimed at coronavirus 01 |

A team of researchers from Stanford University, partnered with researchers at Molecular Foundry, a nanoscience user facility located at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are developing a breakthrough weapon against the coronavirus. This new weapon is an antiviral agent called PAC-MAN and it uses the gene-editing tool CRISPR to fight influenza. Stanley Qi, an assistant professor in the departments of bioengineering, thought said, "So we thought, 'Why don't we try using our PAC-MAN technology to fight it?" (COVID-19).

Qi has combined the CRISPR-based COVID-19 therapy with Molecular Foundry's lipitoid delivery systems, which are a type of synthetic peptide minic know as a "peptoid". The challenge of getting the PAC-MAN molecular tool into an anti-COVID-19 therapy is finding a way of getting the therapy into the patients' lungs - that's where the lipitoids come into play. In April, the researchers tested a type of lipitoid that assembles with DNA and RNA into PAC-MAN carriers in a sample of human epithelial lung cells.

According to Qi, the lipitoids performed much better than expected, and PAC-MAN reduced the amount of synthetic SARS-CoV-2 in a solution by 90%. The next step will be testing the PAC-MAN/lipitoid system in an animal that has a live SARS-CoV-2 virus, and if the therapy is proven effective, we could have a breakthrough weapon against not only COVID-19 but future viruses as well. If you are interested in reading more about this, an in-depth explanation can be found here.

Last updated: Jun 17, 2020 at 07:27 pm CDT

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