Creating a safer CRISPR by targeting RNA instead of DNA

rna
Image credit: WIKIMEDIA, NICOLLE RAGER, NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Researchers at the prestigious Salk Institute are reporting that they have managed to map the molecular structure of a CRISPR enzyme that could allow scientists to more precisely manipulate functions within cells.

The new findings from the Salk Institute, published in the journal Cell, provide the detailed molecular structure of CRISPR-Cas13d, an enzyme that can target RNA instead of DNA.

[H]aving editing tools can allow scientists to modify a gene’s activity without making permanent — and potentially dangerous — changes to the gene itself seems like a good option to explore.

“DNA is constant, but what’s always changing are the RNA messages that are copied from the DNA,” says Salk Research Associate Silvana Konermann, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna Gray Fellow and one of the study’s first authors, in a statement. “Being able to modulate those messages by directly controlling the RNA has important implications for influencing a cell’s fate.”

Related article:  'CRISPR babies' prompt review of international gene-editing guidelines: They 'were not clear enough'

Researchers at Salk first identified the family of enzymes they’re calling CRISPR-Cas13d earlier this year and suggested that this alternate system could recognize and cut RNA. Their first work was around dementia treatment, and the team showed that the tool could be used to correct protein imbalances in cells of dementia patients.

Read full, original post: Scientists have moved one step closer to RNA editing, which could be the next stage of CRISPR

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