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Aurora magazine

Can a genetic disease be treated with moths and magnets?

Rice University Gang Bao bioengineer has created a new genetic editing technology. To do this he combined magnetic nanoparticles with a virus coming from the moths. The technique could help fight diseases such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.

Magnetic fields are easy to manipulate and pass through the tissues. Dr. Bao has therefore decided to use them to control the expression of viral loads in specific tissues. The technique allows in fact to activate viruses that otherwise would remain inactive in the blood, making the therapy less effective. In this way, instead, more viruses manage to reach the target and modify more cells with the correct version of the gene.

CRISPR / Cas9 has the potential to fight most genetic diseases. There are two problems: possible side effects; be able to change as many cells as possible. So we need a way to get a good slice of the virus in the tissues of interest, but the spatial control within the body is a challenge. Even if viruses are injected locally, there is always the possibility that they will displace and dispense the therapy.

Dr. Bao's team started with a moth-like virus, cylindrical in shape and large enough to carry 80,000 strands of DNA. Enough to change the genetic code of multiple cells. Scientists have combined the virus with magnetic nanoparticles, which can make the virus pass through the walls of the blood vessels. In this way they managed to get the changes only where needed, increasing the efficiency of CRISPR / Cas9.

Source: news. rice. edu