In China, researchers are using silkworms to kill viruses, taking CRISPR/CAS, an immune system that attacks foreign genes in the host to protect itself, and using it to attack specific viruses. In particular, researchers were trying to get the silkworm’s system to attack a virus that kills more than 80% of silkworms in China. By creating a new genetically modified species capable of creating the system in its cells, the silkworms can fight the virus and survive. The trait is passed down to offspring so researchers don’t have to continually inject them with the CAS system.
In the past, CAS systems only cut the gene once like a pair of scissors which allowed the viruses to mutate and survive, but their new method cuts the gene in four different areas on the viral strain, more like a paper shredder, making the virus mutations less likely to survive. They hope this research will help increase silk production and someday develop antiviral therapies for people.