Eli5: How do biologists program viruses to use for genome editing?
Well a virus is basically just a short piece of genetic material (DNA or RNA) with instruction to make itself plus a few extra proteins. So, taking an adenovirus as an example, they have double stranded DNA in a protein capsule. If we generate a new piece of DNA and put it into the same protein capsule, we have effectively reprogrammed the virus. We do this by basically cutting out the “bad” parts of the DNA but leaving everything else, so when the blueprints are read the modified virus is made instead of the pathogenic one.