CRISPR AND COVID-19
Researchers are using CRISPR-based techniques to screen for SARS-CoV-2 in asymptomatic individuals belonging to the university community, in order to ‘improve understanding’ of the disease prevalence and help stop further trajectory.
The aim of new studies is to monitor the population in hopes of ‘unveiling COVID-19 cases’ before they result in actual outbreaks and is be regarded as a paramount mitigation approach.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “…one of the most common misconceptions about CRISPR is that it’s only useful for gene editing. In reality, CRISPR can be used for a wide variety of non-gene editing applications, ranging from diagnostics to antiviral applications.”
There are three potential ways CRISPR is being pushed as a ‘solution’ to help fight COVID-19:
- Using CRISPR to edit the SARS-CoV-2 genome.
- CRISPR-based COVID-19 tests.
- Using CRISPR to make people resistant to infection.
Many institutions in the United States are already exploring, testing and recording their results. The two common themes currently shared: Monitoring of test subjects and editing the ‘infected’ genomes of those individuals on order to ‘stop the spread’.
A University of Florida research team is harnessing the power of genomic editing to ‘illuminate druggable targets’ in human cells in the fight against COVID-19.
By taking advantage of high-containment labs in UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute — specially designed for studying highly contagious and virulent pathogens — the team is using CRISPR genome editing techniques to screen human cell lines. Their goal is to discover genetic factors that either hasten or thwart infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus which ’causes COVID-19′.
Furthermore, using an approach called PAC-MAN (Prophylactic Antiviral Crispr in huMAN cells), researchers at Stanford University are discovering ways to attack the genetic makeup of COVID-19.
The University of California in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Pacific Diagnostic Laboratories, are also tracking students to stop asymptomatic spread.
To obtain better insights on the SARS-CoV-2 spread patterns in their local community, the researchers enrolled 1,808 healthy volunteers in a surveillance study. This will help them learn who to ‘target’.
The trials serve as an interesting tale of where coronavirus surveillance may go in the future. However, this might all be a disguise to get the controversial technique accepted in the public eye.
Until now, the system has faced roadblocks in achieving a technological genome-editing dystopia.
CRISPR, otherwise known as “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”, is a gene-editing technology that exploits quirks in bacteria immunity to edit genes in other organisms.
Gene editing in humans takes one of two forms: somatic cell editing and germline editing.
Somatic cell editing affects a person’s body cells, while germline editing involves editing the DNA in sperm, eggs or embryos, resulting in genetic changes in an individual’s descendants.
Research has been ongoing and has been very controversial around the world. Over 40 countries prohibit it in their law, for example.
Scientists using the ‘second generation’ of genetic manipulation technology have used gene-editing to alter the DNA of breed of cattle to help improve ‘sustainability’ of the product in the future.
The cows had been implanted with embryos genetically edited to grow and look like males, regardless of their biological gender.
At around the same time, another group of scientists claim to have injected human cells into monkeys to create monkey-human chimeras.
Most notably, Chinese scientist He Jiankui used CRISPR to edit the genomes of two children. He was criticised as acting unethically, since the safety and efficacy had not been established. A five-year moratorium on it was called and Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison in 2019.
CRISPR gene-editing technology is being pushed as a tool to ‘enable positive change’, such as treatments for genetic diseases, altering the germline of humans and animals, modifying the genes of food crops and much more. However, the practice has not been widely popular.
How ‘convenient’ that this technique is being floated as a ‘solution’ to COVID-19. This future path was detailed in our April feature video, COVID-19(84): Birth of a Brave New World.
Importantly, Australia is already in a leading position to make widespread gene-editing a reality.
DEREGULATED IN AUSTRALIA
Now that we are five months into the COVID-19 saga, it is interesting to look back on previous articles and piece the preparations together. Australian scientists preparing for a pandemic in 2013, for example, is a very telling piece that was overlooked at the time of publishing.
Given these new developments, another telling article on the website is this one: Australia to deregulate gene-editing techniques, published 12 months ago in September 2019.
The Australian government deregulated many new controversial CRISPR gene-editing methods and products at the end of last year, in a move experts said threatened organic production.
The Gene Technology Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019 outlined the plans for the changes, allowing for a brief period of regulation to continue in preparation for the rollout.
The amended rules removed requirements for the use of tools in which proteins cut DNA at a specific target site — as long as the tools allow the host cell to repair the “break naturally”.
The new technologies were approved under the condition that new genetic material is not created.
In a statement, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) commented on the changes, after concerns a series of new GM animals, plants and microbes will be introduced into the food chain with no safety assessment, and potentially, no labelling.
Previously, the use of CRISPR for research purposes was restricted because the techniques were governed by the same rules as conventional genetic modifications, which require approval from a biosafety committee accredited by the OGTR.
Members and affiliates of Gene-Ethics Australia spoke on the threat these changes pose to the world stage, given Australia’s significant contribution of 51% of the world’s organic food produce.
Could this be why we a seeing new bird flu outbreaks across Australian farms now?
Certainly a troubling development at the time, but could we have also been overlooking a second layer of intention? To not only ensure that food security was compromised in anticipation for COVID-19, but to also remove the frameworks needed for future human genetic engineering?
We are entering an era where biotech companies reign supreme, COVAX shots will be incorporated into the vaccine schedules of each country and the virus hysteria will morph each year to fit.
Could genome editing also be a part of this larger agenda? Is this how they will determine who is ‘clear’ on future immunity passports and vaccine tattoos? What better way to combat claims certificates are useless because of asymptomatic cases, by finding a way to examine and test it.
What type of door does that kick open in the future?
Strange times, ladies and gentlemen. Strange times.
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CRISPR-based COVID-19 surveillance | News Medical
5 things to know about CRISPR and gene editing in the COVID era | World Health Organisation
What are the Ethical Concerns of Genome Editing? | National Human Genome Research Institute
Australia to deregulate gene-editing techniques | TOTT News
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