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CRISPR’s long ‘natural history’ in microbes predated its recent ‘miracle’ applications

| | April 10, 2017

It is the dazzling star of the biotech world: a powerful new tool that can deftly and precisely alter the structure of DNA. It promises cures for diseases, sturdier crops, malaria-resistant mosquitoes and more. Frenzy over the technique — known as CRISPR/Cas9 — is in full swing…

But there is a less sequins-and-glitter side to CRISPR that’s just as alluring to anyone thirsty to understand the natural world…

The CRISPR editing tool has its origins in microbes — bacteria and archaea that live in obscene numbers everywhere from undersea vents to the snot in the human nose. For billions of years, these single-celled organisms have been at odds with the viruses — known as phages — that attack them, invaders so plentiful that a single drop of seawater can hold 10 million.

Researchers now know there are a confetti-storm of different CRISPR systems, and the list continues to grow. Some are simple — such as the CRISPR/Cas9 system that’s been adapted for gene editing in more complex creatures (SN: 4/15/17, p. 16) — and some are elaborate, with many protein workhorses deployed to get the job done.

But scientists stress that it is a mischaracterization to paint the relationship between microbes and phages, plasmids and transposable elements as a simplistic war…Phages, plasmids and transposable elements can confer new, useful traits — sometimes even essential ones.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: CRISPR had a life before it became a gene-editing tool

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.
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