Does CRISPR cause unintended mutations? Not in this monkey study

monkeys

CRISPR is still new, and no one really knows its potential side effects. Does it cause cancer? How about unintended mutations? To get to the bottom of the issue, a team of researchers from China conducted a comprehensive assessment of CRISPR-modified monkeys, looking for any off-target mutations in the animals’ genomes.

For their study, the researchers designed a CRISPR-Cas9 system to make the gene MCPH1 inactive in rhesus monkeys. Mutations in this gene cause the brain to develop abnormally, resulting in the medical condition microcephaly.

The researchers injected their CRISPR-Cas9 system into 15 rhesus monkey zygotes (the single cell produced when sperm fertilizes an egg). They found that the MCPH1 knockout was successful in 13 of the resulting embryos (the next gestation stage, when the cell begins dividing and growing). This showed them their technique worked as they hoped.

Related article:  Base Editing: New CRISPR technique could improve ability to safely edit human embryos

The researchers found that their CRISPR gene modification worked in all but one of the monkey offspring, including the deceased female. Next, they looked for any de novo mutations (DNM), mutations that aren’t inherited, in the monkeys. They sequenced the whole genomes of each monkey and found that their CRISPR edits produced no DNMs.

The researchers’ conclusion? “CRISPR-Cas9 can be considered a relatively safe gene editing system for primates,” according to their paper.

Read full, original post: CRISPR Doesn’t Cause Unintended Mutations in Monkeys, Study Finds

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