The past eight years have seen massive strides
forward for the field of genome editing, thanks to a new technology known as
CRISPR. This newfound ability to edit humanity’s genetic code provides both
profound opportunities for human betterment and difficult ethical questions
about how far the technology should be permitted to go. Kevin Davies and I
recently discussed these questions on an episode of Political Economy.
Kevin is the executive editor of The CRISPR Journal and the founding editor of Nature Genetics. He is also the author of several books, including the recently released “Editing Humanity: The CRISPR Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing.”
Below is an abbreviated transcript of our conversation. You can read our full discussion here. You can also subscribe to my podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, or download the podcast on Ricochet.
Your book’s title refers to the “CRISPR revolution.” How
Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for her pioneering research in CRISPR gene editing. She is receiving the prize with Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin.
Doudna and Charpentier discovered that the CRISPR-Cas9 protein works as genetic scissors, which researchers can use to make changes to the DNA. Their research can contribute to new cancer therapies and represents a major advancement towards curing genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease.
“Working on the project with Emmanuelle — once we understood how the CRISPR-Cas9 protein works as a programmable system in enzyme [and] in bacteria to cut DNA and that we could control where it cuts DNA by changing its little molecular zip code that directs it to particular sequences — that’s when we really understood that this had the potential to be
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 to Emmanuelle Charpentier, Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Berlin, Germany, and Jennifer A. Doudna, University of California, Berkeley, USA “for the development of a method for genome editing.”
Genetic scissors: a tool for rewriting the code of life
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna have discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.
Researchers need to modify genes in cells if they are to find out about life’s inner workings. This used to be time-consuming, difficult and sometimes impossible work. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic
They discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and micro-organisms with extremely high precision.
Before announcing the winners on Wednesday, Göran K. Hansson, secretary-general for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said that this year’s prize was about “rewriting the code of life.”
The CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tools have revolutionized the molecular life sciences, brought new opportunities for plant breeding, are contributing to innovative cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true, according to a press release from the Nobel committee.
Time may be our worst enemy, and aging its most powerful weapon. Our hair turns grey, our strength wanes, and a slew of age-related diseases represent what is happening at the cellular and molecular levels. Aging affects all the cells in our body’s different tissues, and understanding its impact would be of great value in fighting this eternal enemy of all ephemeral life forms.
The key is to first observe and measure. In a paper published in Cell Reports, scientists led by Johan Auwerx at EPFL started by asking a simple question: how do the tissues of aging mice differ from those of mice that are mere adults?
To answer the question, the researchers used the multiple techniques to measure the expression of everyone one of the thousands of mouse’s genes, and to identify any underlying epigenetic differences. The researchers not only measured different layers of information, but they
A new mobile app has made it possible to analyze the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on a smartphone in less than half an hour.
Cutting-edge nanopore devices have enabled scientists to read or ‘sequence’ the genetic material in a biological sample outside a laboratory, however analyzing the raw data has still required access to high-end computing power—until now.
The app Genopo, developed by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, in collaboration with the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, makes genomics more accessible to remote or under-resourced regions, as well as the hospital bedside.
“Not everyone has access to the high-power computing resources that are required for DNA and RNA analysis, but most people have access to a smartphone,” says co-senior author Dr. Ira Deveson, who heads the Genomic Technologies Group at Garvan’s
Researchers have sequenced the genome of Alexander Fleming’s penicillin mould for the first time and compared it to later versions.
Alexander Fleming famously discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928 while working at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, which is now part of Imperial College London. The antibiotic was produced by a mould in the genus Penicillium that accidentally started growing in a Petri dish.
Now, researchers from Imperial College London, CABI and the University of Oxford have sequenced the genome of Fleming’s original Penicillium strain using samples that were frozen alive more than fifty years ago.
The team also used the new genome to compare Fleming’s mould with two strains of Penicillium from the US that are used to produce the antibiotic on an industrial scale. The results, published today in Scientific Reports, reveal that the UK and US strains use slightly different methods to produce penicillin, potentially
The cells that make up our body are tiny, each of them measuring only micrometers in diameter. The ensemble of chromosomal DNA molecules that encode the genome, on the other hand, measures almost 2 meters. In order to fit into cells, chromosomal DNA is folded many times. But the DNA is not merely squeezed into the nucleus in a random manor but folded in a specific and highly regulated structure. The spatial organization of chromosomal DNA enables regulated topological interactions between distant parts, thereby supporting proper expression, maintenance, and transport of the genome across cell generations.
Breaks in our DNA, which can occur spontaneously or result from irradiation or chemical insults, can lead to severe problems since they foster mutations and can ultimately lead to cancer. But not every DNA break has disastrous consequences, since our cells have ingenious ways of repairing the damage. One of the main DNA repair
Feeding a growing population without being able to expand agricultural land will require increases in agricultural productivity. However, major crop yields have been plateauing over the last few decades and concerns over the use of synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilizers is leading to more and more tools being stripped away from farmers looking to boost their crop yields.
A potential solution to these challenges is through genetics. By manipulating the genomes of crops, it is possible to make crops larger, improve resilience to environmental stresses and give plants an innate resistance to certain diseases. In a sense, humans have been manipulating the DNA of crops for thousands of years through selective breeding, although the pace has increased significantly as new genetic engineering technologies have emerged. The recent IDTechEx report, “Genetic Technologies in Agriculture 2020-2030: Forecasts, Markets, Technologies”, explores the use of genetic technologies within agriculture and the impact that they