‘Huge step’ for synthetic biology: CRISPR upgrade allows editing of larger genome fragments ‘with ease’

human chromosomes
Image: Encyclopædia Britannica

Imagine a word processor that allowed you to change letters or words but balked when you tried to cut or rearrange whole paragraphs. Biologists have faced such constraints for decades. They could add or disable genes in a cell or even—with the genome-editing technology CRISPR—make precise changes within genes. Those capabilities have led to recombinant DNA technology, genetically modified organisms, and gene therapies. But a long-sought goal remained out of reach: manipulating much larger chunks of chromosomes in Escherichia coli, the workhorse bacterium. Now, researchers report they’ve adapted CRISPR and combined it with other tools to cut and splice large genome fragments with ease.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Biologist Craig Mello knew about the CRISPR babies. Why his silence was 'not acceptable'

“This new paper is incredibly exciting and a huge step forward for synthetic biology,” says Anne Meyer, a synthetic biologist at the University of Rochester in New York who was not involved in the paper published in [the August 30] issue of Science. The technique will enable synthetic biologists to take on “grand challenges,” she says, such as “writing of information to DNA and storing it in a bacterial genome or creating new hybrid bacterial species that can carry out novel [metabolic reactions] for biochemistry or materials production.”

Read full, original post: Forget single genes: CRISPR now cuts and splices whole chromosomes

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