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New research, pioneered by a first year Ph.D. student and researchers at the University of St Andrews' School of Biology, has identified an important new component of the CRISPR genome engineering toolkit, which is revolutionising the treatment of genetic disease and infection.
The study, published in Nature (Wednesday 19 September 2018), focused on cell level defences against viral infections and the ability to restore cells to an uninfected state once a virus is destroyed. The research team, led by Professor Malcolm White from the Biomedical Sciences Research Complex (BSRC) at St Andrews, made the breakthrough, which could have wide range of applications in healthcare, biotechnology and agriculture.
Forms - Life - Need - Infection - Viruses
All forms of life need to combat infection by viruses. Humans have an adaptive immune system based on antibodies that carries a memory of past infection and provides immunity. As with humans, microbes also have an adaptive immune system, the CRISPR system, which stores small pieces of viral genetic material that are used to provide immunity against future infection. The CRISPR system has been harnessed to manipulate and engineer genomes in the fight against infection and diseases.
Humans use the interferon pathway to signal infection and mobilise defences. Recently, an unexpected facet of the CRISPR system was discovered, whereby invading viral genetic material triggers the synthesis of a cyclic ring molecule. These rings, which consist of 4 or 6 linked adenosine monophosphate (AMP) molecules, are, like interferon, signalling molecules that push the cell into an antiviral state. They do this by activating a suite of degradative enzymes that destroy the invading...
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