Bioengineers at Stanford University were working on a system to fight the flu with the gene-editing technology CRISPR when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in January. So they quickly pivoted to address the new disease—and now they’re reporting they’ve developed a way to inhibit 90% of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.
The Stanford team worked with researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to develop a technique called prophylactic antiviral CRISPR in human cells, or PAC-MAN. The technology disables viruses by scrambling their genetic code. The researchers developed a new way to deliver the technology into lung cells, they reported in the journal Cell.
PAC-MAN combines a guide RNA with the virus-killing enzyme Cas13. The RNA directs Cas13 to destroy certain nucleotide sequences in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, effectively neutralizing it.
23andMe Provides More Evidence That Blood Type Plays Role in Virus
Research from genetic-testing giant 23andMe Inc. found differences in a gene that influences a person’s blood type can affect a person’s susceptibility to Covid-19.
Scientists have been looking at genetic factors to try to determine why some people who contract the new coronavirus experience no symptoms, while others become gravely ill. In April, 23andMe launched a study that sought to use the millions of profiles in its DNA database to shed light on the role genetics play in the disease.
Preliminary results from more than 750,000 participants suggest type O blood is especially protective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, the company said on Monday. The findings echo other research that has indicated a link between variations in the ABO gene and Covid-19.
UCSF Studying Stem Cells as Possible Coronavirus Treatment
UCSF’s Dr. Michael Matthay wasn’t thinking about a pandemic in January when he launched a clinical trial to investigate whether certain stem cells could effectively treat a serious form of respiratory failure.Then the coronavirus came to the United States. Now, most of the people who are part of the trial Matthay is leading in San Francisco and other locations have COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Many patients with severe cases of COVID-19 develop acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, which was the impetus for Matthay’s study. ARDS is often caused by pneumonia but can also be triggered by other critical illnesses or major injuries.
The trial is using intravenous doses of mesenchymal stem cells, which are found in bone marrow and umbilical cords, to treat people afflicted with the respiratory syndrome. COVID-19 patients who develop ARDS are in the most dire group of those infected by the coronavirus: Matthay’s work on ARDS and COVID-19 could be a greatly beneficial tool to fight the pandemic, if it proves successful. He brings about 30 years of experience caring for patients afflicted by ARDS, and the mesenchymal stem cells he is testing already cleared two safety trials, one in 2015 and another in 2018.