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Researchers who discovered a molecular “scissors” for snipping genes have now developed a similar approach for targeting and cutting RNA. The new cutting tool should help researchers better understand RNA’s role in cells and diseases, and some believe it could one day be useful in treatments for illnesses from Huntington’s to heart disease.
To develop the “blades” for the process, researchers led by Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute used CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)—a system that bacteria evolved to fight off pathogens. CRISPR has previously been used to edit DNA but had been theorized to work on RNA as well.
The new findings, reported Thursday in Science1, came from systematically exploring different aspects of that natural defense system that protects bacteria—and may eventually be put to use helping people. “Nature has already invented all these really interesting mechanisms,” Zhang says, comparing himself with a treasure hunter. “We’re just trying to play with that and learn how they work…then turn them into tools that will be useful to us.”
Read full, original post: CRISPR gene-editing system unleashed on RNA