Sunday Express

Genetic code to help Covid-19 destroy itself


COVID-19 could be tackled with a “gene silencing” technique that uses a mirror image of the virus’s genetic code to trick it into destroying itself.

Scientists say the “new and exciting approach” could be used to stop the bug in its tracks or prevent people becoming ill if infected.

The technique, which has already been successful in treating other diseases, involves the introducti­on of a synthetica­lly produced mirror image of a part of the virus’s gene sequence into the lungs.

Known as RNA interferen­ce, this synthetic code sequence binds with the virus RNA like a jigsaw and degrades it. The therapy has been shown in laboratory trials to stick to and then destroy part of the coronaviru­s’s own genetic code which instructs it to replicate.

Research into the inhaled therapy, which is to undergo clinical trials within months, is being carried out by Alnylam Pharmaceut­icals and Vir Biotechnol­ogy with help from Dr Sir Mike Jacobs, a leading infectious disease expert at London’s Royal

Free Hospital.

He said: “This therapy is designed with tremendous precision.”

Dr Akshay Vaishnaw, of Us-based Alnylam, which has offices in the UK, said: “Covid invades the lung cells and makes its own RNA, which is like a blueprint or code to make more copies of the virus. Our treatment will be used to interrupt this process.”

The science behind the technique, which won the Nobel Prize in 2006, led to the developmen­t of a drug called givosiran to treat a rare blood disorder. It was approved by European regulators earlier this year.

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