The scientific group Project-Wright (GP-Write) announced a plan to launch a "large-scale community-wide project" to develop virus-resistant cells, as well as cells that are likely to be resistant to radiation, freezing, aging and cancer.
The GP said the plan was the first step toward producing "highly secure cells" as desired, according to Time magazine.
"Safer cells can have a major impact on human health," said George Church, a genetics specialist at Harvard Medical School and one of four members of the scientific group's leadership.
Jeff Buick, director of the Institute of Genetics at the Langon Medical Center, New York University, who is also a leader of the GP Group, said "there is a strong reason to believe that we can produce cells that are completely resistant to all known viruses," he said in a statement. For the site "STAT" to "it should also be possible to design other features, including the resistance of prions and cancer."
Re-coding the human genome to make it anti-viral is the first stage of the most ambitious project goal, which could be able to synthesize any genome, including the human genome in the laboratory.
The GP Group's efforts have gained momentum in collaboration with a new partner, Cellectis Biopharmaceuticals, which will provide the Church Laboratory with virus-targeting technology, which is based on the TALEN genome editing tool, which can produce highly accurate DNA changes.
The scientific group also plans to create virus-resistant genes by recoding DNA.
Basically, the method is to jam viruses so that they can no longer read the human genome and prevent them from exploiting human genes to help the virus reproduce. Human DNA is read in groups of 3 characters (consisting of the components of acid A, C, G and T) known as codons, ie, the codes. Each codon is amino acid, a chain of amino acids that form proteins. It is noted that there is a repetition of this system, so that the different three-character codes can symbolize the same amino acid.
The re-coding of the human genome to eliminate this replication ensures that only one codon symbolizes a specific amino acid, thereby freezing the virus and preventing it from multiplying.
Indeed, the Church laboratory showed that this approach is possible by testing genetic changes on E. coli bacteria. After 321 changes to the bacterial genome, microbes have become resistant to some viruses.
However, creating such resistance in human cells would be a much more difficult achievement. "Re-coding every protein in the human genome will require 400,000 changes," the Church lab said in a press release.
Several institutions are scheduled to participate in the project, which may have significant implications for human health. In the statement, the researchers point to the fact that viruses can often contaminate drugs during manufacture, resulting in significant financial losses to pharmaceutical companies.
"Safer cells can make pharmaceuticals safer, cheaper and more reliable," the Church lab said.
GP Group leaders hope to complete their project within 10 years.