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Sunday, April 19, 2020

Looking Towards the Future: Coronavirus, Gene Editing and CRISPR



So I was thinking, last night, about transcriptions past that I have done, particularly over the past couple of years - beyond what we will (eventually) do with immunization - about what we've only recently been able to accomplish by harnessing the power of the virus to actually cure other types of illnesses. 

We've already known for years prior that certain types of viruses can destroy certain types of cancers - which we found by accident, after observing people with certain types of cancer also became infected with certain types if virus and were suddenly "cured" - but we weren't sure why or how this worked (and still don't entirely).

Since then,  we've been able to take a small amount of certain highly evolved viruses and introduce them to make great strides in defeating certain types of cancer, in a process called "viral therapy."  We are still in the early stages of this research, but it does appear promising.

The most prominent form of this "gene therapy" or "gene editing" is via CRISPR - which will likely be the future of curing many diseases other than cancer - including genetic ones. 

CRISPR gene editing essentially uses a RNA to identify Cas protein enzymes produced by forms bacteria and viruses to identify foreign substances and either target and destroy, or more recently with viruses, break down their genetic code - and actually uses it to supplement what's lacking in our own DNA to "fix" our own genetic mutations and deletions, since viruses replicate by combining with our own DNA, or "transcribing" it into their own. 

Especially a highly complex evolved virus such as HIV, which actually has natural "DNA ripping" properties  - meaning the virus uses an enzyme to rip apart segments of our DNA and RNA and then injects/binds their own nucleotides to ours to survive and replicate themselves - to bind with the nucleotides of the cancer and/or our own DNA - resulting in the patient appearing to no longer show signs of cancer or a genetic disorder.

For example, you may have heard of "Bluebird" - which is a cure for hemophilia A, in which small, weakened amounts of a highly evolved virus like HIV are introduced into the patients to target specific protein-binding sites responsible for hemophilia A-associated genetic anomalies - and the end result is - your body starts producing the things you want, deleting the things you don't - and no more hemophilia A. 

Why do they most often use HIV? 

HIV is a particularly highly evolved retrovirus.

Which means, in very basic terms, that HIV has the ability to "unzip" virtually every nucleotide molecule "rung" in the "ladder" in your DNA/RNA, as opposed to just targeted segments, like other viruses.  

HIV then binds to your DNA nucleotide sequence, transcribes it,  translates the genetic info back to the virus, which creats a sort of own "copy" of your nucleotides, then rebinds its "copy" nucleotides with each broken rung of our DNA ladder, then "rezips" it back up -  merging your DNA your DNA with its own, replicating itself at lightning speed - only your body doesn't recognize it as a foreigner as readily because it partially uses your own DNA.

(I hope that makes sense - that's a very basic description, relying on- and going way back to - my college microbiology class days lol.) 

Of course, there's a hefty price tag for Bluebird - it entered the market at $1.3 million (thus, no private or public insurance will cover it at that price, it's out of pocket only).

Is it safe?  Do you now have HIV?

Yes, it's safe - and no, you don't now have HIV in its place.

First of all, we're we're talking genetically altered HIV, and secondly, due to targeted genetic alteration, one essentially cancels out the other's negative genetic properties. 

Essentially, adding just enough of a genetically altered virus can either supplement what is lacking - or inhibit/delete production of what's being overproduced - in your own DNA/RNA, so that your body can now do what it was originally designed to do before genetic anomalies occurred :)

Bluebird was approved by the FDA - and thus far, no one who has received the therapy in clinical trials has developed HIV (or any other virus used in CRISPR treatment) - and they do appear to be "cured" of hemophilia A.

A similar therapy is being trialed in sickle-cell - also expected to be approved by the FDA -  and likewise, has a million-dollar price tag - so forget about public or private insurance covering that cost; again, out of pocket. 

And yes - there is always the potential to use this genetic engineering for unethical as well as ethical purposes.

However,  CRISPR is still too fledgling for us to have the knowledge to do that, we're just now figuring it out.

Just in case, these treatments and current trials are being heavily monitored/regulated, even in the U.S., to ensure ethics and safety maintained. 

Thus, I was thinking - if this SARS-CoV2 is as potent and highly evolved as they say - if we can learn more about how it works, weaken it, and use it as immunotherapy for innoculation - the next step could then be another powerful weapon in actually using it to someday cure other diseases like cancer or genetic diseases using CRISPR?

Of course, we're nowhere near that point yet, we don't understand it enough - and just think of how long it took to understand HIV enough to treat it adequately, and then use it in this type of research - almost 30 years.

(But then again, though we knew about CRISPR since 1987, we didn't know how to use it effectively until the past few years.)

Just thinking forward and being hopeful, here :)

Also thinking about spiritual people asking where God is, in all of this. 

I personally don't think God did this or is punitive - I think God gets credited and blamed for far too much already lol.

I think you can see God and Christ in this, if you look in the right places, as I've posted about previously  :)

I am also reminded of Genesis 50:40 ... 


"20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Just like everything else, bad things that happen - "the rain falls on the just and the unjust" - regardless of random or intentional - but it can eventually be used for good - if we recognize that and use our free will to achieve it :)

Thus, yesterday's shorter-term plague can become tomorrow's cure - even for a more chronic plague that we've been battling for a couple of centuries? 




 

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