Feb 15, 2023

Lab-Made Enzymes Could Chop Up the Virus That Causes COVID

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry

Artificial enzymes can fight the COVID-causing virus by selectively snipping apart its RNA genome, a new study suggests. Researchers say the technique may overcome key problems with previous technologies and could help create rapid antiviral treatments as threats emerge.

When the COVID pandemic struck, University of Cambridge chemical biologist Alexander Taylor scrambled to repurpose a gene-cutting technology he and his colleagues had been developing: synthetic enzymes called XNAzymes (xeno nucleic acids) formed from artificial RNA. Working single-handedly during lockdown, Taylor generated five XNAzymes targeting sequences in SARS-CoV-2’s genome in a matter of days.

Enzymes are natural catalysts that facilitate chemical transformations—in this case, by chopping other molecules apart. But previous DNA-and RNA-based enzymes have struggled to cut long, highly structured molecules such as virus genomes. Instead they destroy targets by recruiting existing enzymes inside cells—a less precise process that can lead to “off-target” cuts and increased side effects.

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