Biotechnology Breakthrough Targets Flaviviruses

by Aaron Gochman (’18)

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Fig. 1: CRISPR-Cas9 is able to target members of the flavivirus family.

CRISPR-Cas9, the most recent breakthrough in biotechnology research, allows for specific and precise gene editing. With countless applications, scientists all over the world seek to optimize it for use in treating myriad diseases. This week, a team of American and Chinese researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 to target flaviviruses, a group that includes West Nile, Zika, and Dengue. There are no current effective antiviral treatments for flavivirus infection.

The team took advantage of CRISPR-Cas9’s precise activity to search for genes that were associated with the flavivirus pathologies. They were able to identify nine genes; all of these genes were critical in protein modification and degradation in the endoplasmic reticulum. Following these results, these genes were then knocked out to test cellular function in their absence. The group found that inhibiting these protein pathways resulted in a lower yield of infection. The data from this experiment offer new insights into future pharmacological treatments for flaviviruses.

 

References:

  1. R. Zhang et al., A CRISPR screen defines a signal peptide processing pathway required by flaviviruses. Nature 535, 164–168 (2016). doi:10.1038/nature18625
  2. Image retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-gene-editing-is-just-the-beginning-1.19510
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