Wednesday August 15, 2018

Just in! Like Computer Software, Scientists can now Programme Cells in your Body to Fight Diseases!

Scientists found that RNA which is produced abundantly by humans, plants and animals can be genetically engineered to allow scientists to programme cells with specific commands

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Programme cells
Scientists have found that cells can be programmed with pre-defined RNA commands, in the manner of a computer's microprocessor VOA
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London, September 19, 2017 : A new technique can help programme cells like a computer to fight cancer, influenza, and other serious conditions, suggests new research.

A common molecule — ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is produced abundantly by humans, plants and animals — can be genetically engineered to allow scientists to programme cells, said the study published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

RNAs carry information between protein and DNA in cells, and the research proved that these molecules can be produced and organised into tailor-made sequences of commands — similar to codes for computer software — which feed specific instructions into cells, programming them to do what we want.

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Cells have the capacity to process and respond to instructions and codes inputted into their main system, said lead researcher Alfonso Jaramillo, Professor at University of Warwick in Britain.

Similar to software running on a computer, or apps on a mobile device, many different RNA sequences could be created to empower cells with a ‘Virtual Machine’, able to interpret a universal RNA language, and to perform specific actions to address different diseases or problems, the study said.

This will allow a novel type of personalised and efficient healthcare, allowing us to ‘download’ a sequence of actions into cells, instructing them to execute complex decisions encoded in the RNA.

The researchers made their invention by first modelling all possible RNA sequence interactions on a computer, and then constructing the DNA encoding the optimal RNA designs, to be validated on bacteria cells in the laboratory.

After inducing the bacterial cells to produce the genetically engineered RNA sequences, the researchers observed that they had altered the gene expression of the cells according to the RNA programme — demonstrating that cells can be programmed with pre-defined RNA commands, in the manner of a computer’s microprocessor.

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“The capabilities of RNA molecules to interact in a predictable manner, and with alternative conformations, has allowed us to engineer networks of molecular switches that could be made to process arbitrary orders encoded in RNA,” Jaramillo said.

As well as fighting disease and injury in humans, scientists could harness this technique to control plant cells and reverse environmental and agricultural issues, making plants more resilient to disease and pests.

“Throughout last year, my group has been developing methodologies to enable RNA sensing the environment, perform arithmetic computations and control gene expression without relying on proteins, which makes the system universal across all living kingdoms,” Jaramillo said.

“The cells could read the RNA ‘software’ to perform the encoded tasks, which could make the cells detect abnormal states, infections, or trigger developmental programmes,” he added.  (IANS)

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CRISPR Gene Editing can Cause Risky Collateral DNA Damage: Study

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers' interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing

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Genetic variants on the X chromosome explain virtually identical amounts of variation in men and women. Pixabay

The much celebrated CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought, scientists have warned.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a type of molecular scissor technology that can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.

Besides extensive use in scientific research, CRISPR/Cas9 has also been seen as a promising way to create potential genome editing treatments for diseases such as HIV, cancer or sickle cell disease.

But the new research, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, revealed that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.

Many of the cells, in both mice and humans, had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions.

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CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.. Pixabay

These could lead to important genes being switched on or off, which could have major implications for CRISPR/Cas9 use in therapies.

In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods, the researchers said.

“This is the first systematic assessment of unexpected events resulting from CRISPR/Cas9 editing in therapeutically relevant cells, and we found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now,” said Allan Bradley, Professor at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in London.

Also Read: New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes And Heart Failure

“It is important that anyone thinking of using this technology for gene therapy proceeds with caution, and looks very carefully to check for possible harmful effects,” Bradley added

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers’ interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing.

“While it is not known if genomic sites in other cell lines will be affected in the same way, this study shows that further research and specific testing is needed before CRISPR/Cas9 is used clinically,” the researchers said. (IANS)