Andre Watson 🧬

Andre Watson 🧬

05-02-2022

05:46

Bacterial immunity to viruses is incredible. We have so much more to learn and unlock to master not only genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas systems, but also the next generation of gene editing and modulating tools as well as replicating adaptive, genomic immunity.

What is bacterial adaptive immunity? When phages (viruses that infect bacteria) insert their genetic materials into bacteria, bacteria use a host of evolved genetic immunity techniques to fend off invaders.

In animals, our adaptive immune systems rely primarily on B cells to generate antibodies and T cells to generate T cell receptors that continuously evolve to bind to and neutralize invaders such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.

While mammalian cells are able to mount responses to certain components of viruses, bacteria, and pathogens based on specific characteristics (lipids, sugars and DNA or RNA) appearing inside of the cell, our “intracellular” immune responses are nowhere as advanced as bacteria.

If mammals had the kind of intracellular adaptive immune responses as bacteria do, we’d be able to “learn” what kind of genetic sequences are introduced by different kinds of viruses, for instance, and would then be able to destroy specific sequences of RNA and DNA.

Imagine if humans had the adaptive intracellular immune response of bacteria! We could respond to SARS, HIV, and other viruses by directly snipping out or destroying specific genetic sequences that don’t belong. Our cells would learn how to destroy viruses before they form.

As gene therapy and editing becomes more widespread and practical across entire physiological systems, and inserting large sequences of DNA into the genome becomes possible (see @jgooten @omarabudayyeh work on huge gene insertions), this will become possible.

In 100 years, humans could very well eliminate viruses from being infectious, and add an arsenal of intracellular immunity techniques that have evolved over billions of years in bacteria to complement our adaptive and innate immune systems.

Incidentally, CRISPR gene editing is the genome engineering toolbox that lets us edit and modulate specific genes at a whim. The way that bacteria do this naturally was originally adapted for engineering apps with work out of @doudna_lab + Charpantier labs, as well as @zhangf.

Exciting years are ahead for the future of medicine, decoding biology, learning from other organisms, and improving the wellbeing and health span of life on Earth.


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