CRISPR ‘black box’ tells us what’s happening inside human cells

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To get a peek inside the cell, scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have developed a sort of “black box” for both human and bacterial cells.

They designed two different systems for doing so, dubbed CAMERA 1 and CAMERA 2, each relying on different CRISPR components. In CAMERA 1, they used the cutting component of the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

They injected little circles of DNA called plasmids into bacterial cells that the cells can replicate. They used two different plasmids that had the same origin but were ever-so-slightly genetically different. The cell, it turns, naturally maintains the same number of total copies of those two plasmids. So if you use CRISPR-Cas9 to cut one of the plasmids, the cell will produce more of the other. Program CRISPR to cut the plasmid in response to certain stimuli, and you have a way to monitor cellular activity.

In the CAMERA 2 system, they used what are known as base editors—which can change individual letters of genetic code—to record cellular events as changes to the DNA sequence

These two new methodologies are a significant advancement, though, because they combine several features of past systems, such as allowing for the recording of the intensity of a cell signal, recording multiple signals at once, recording the order in which those signals occur, and working in human cells.

Read full, original post: Made a ‘Black Box’ for Recording Data From Human Cells

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