Jun 27, 2017 08:57 AM EDT
Viruses cause sickness but gene editing has changed all that. Scientists have engineered viruses that can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria rather than cause diseases.
Scientists have been using the gene editing tool CRISPR to create viruses called bacteriophages. These genetically engineered viruses are aimed to combat the deadliest disease-causing bacteria, especially those which have become resistant to antibiotics.
Using bacteriophages is not new but using engineered ones is innovative. In the past, scientists isolated bacteriophages in the wild and purified them for use. Because they are found in the wild, there hasn't been enough enthusiasm for further research on them. Also, bacteria can evolve in time rendering bacteriophage discoveries useless.
With CRISPR, however, all these have changed. Scientists from Locus Biosciences said that they have tested the genetically-engineered bacteriophages in mice affected by antibiotic-resistant infections. The result was successful as they save the lives of the mice.
At present, there are two companies that are conducting research regarding bacteriophages. Both of them want to target specific bacteria that cause deadly diseases and different health conditions.
One company, Locus, is using CRISPR to deploy DNA that has the ability to create modified guide RNAs which will target these antibiotic-resistant genes. Once the RNA connects with the resistant gene, the bacteriophage creates Cas3, a bacteria-killing enzyme.
The other company, Eligo Bioscience, inserts the DNA that creates guide RNAs with Cas3. The enzyme removes the DNA of the bacterium and triggering its self-destruct mechanism.
The proposed methods look promising but there are still a lot of challenges to hurdle. One of this is these include the need to use large amounts of bacteriophages which, in turn, could affect the immune system and make the treatment useless. However, if the researchers are able to hurdle all these challenges, humans will have an effective way to combat different types of diseases more effectively.
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