Scientists managed to suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication in human cells. CRISPR-Cas13b enzyme makes up the basis of RNA editing. It binds to RNA targets and destroys the genome part responsible for intracellular replication.
Researchers tested this method in vitro, using SARS-CoV-2 virus and human cells and could successfully stop replication of various SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the new strains, which WHO classified as a highest hazard (VOC) group.
Researchers point out that not only the new method suppresses the viral replication, but also prevents its new variants from escaping the host's immune response. Computer model alloes execute a screening of the entire genome with resolution down to a single nucleotide. CRISPR-Cas13b method itself grants efficacy of respective gene suppression with 98 % accuracy.
The authors postulate that this new antiviral strategy can act as a tool to silence SARS-CoV-2 strains that would escape conventional antiviral therapeutics, including recombinant monoclonal antibodies, antibodies in the plasma of convalescent patients, antibodies generated through vaccination, or small inhibitor molecules. A key step in enabling clinical translation of this proof-of-concept approach will be to develop a safe and effective delivery strategy such as lipid nanoparticle formulations for systemic, and possibly, mucosal delivery for testing in animal models. Importantly, a CRISPR-Cas13 based viral suppression is also readily adaptable and expandable to other pathogenic viruses beyond SARS-CoV-2, and may therefore represent a powerful platform for antiviral therapeutics.