Wednesday June 26, 2019

CRISPR Gene Editing can Cause Risky Collateral DNA Damage: Study

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers' interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing

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Gene triggering antibiotic reaction risk identified. Pixabay

The much celebrated CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought, scientists have warned.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a type of molecular scissor technology that can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.

Besides extensive use in scientific research, CRISPR/Cas9 has also been seen as a promising way to create potential genome editing treatments for diseases such as HIV, cancer or sickle cell disease.

But the new research, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, revealed that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.

Many of the cells, in both mice and humans, had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions.

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CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.. Pixabay

These could lead to important genes being switched on or off, which could have major implications for CRISPR/Cas9 use in therapies.

In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods, the researchers said.

“This is the first systematic assessment of unexpected events resulting from CRISPR/Cas9 editing in therapeutically relevant cells, and we found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now,” said Allan Bradley, Professor at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in London.

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“It is important that anyone thinking of using this technology for gene therapy proceeds with caution, and looks very carefully to check for possible harmful effects,” Bradley added

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers’ interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing.

“While it is not known if genomic sites in other cell lines will be affected in the same way, this study shows that further research and specific testing is needed before CRISPR/Cas9 is used clinically,” the researchers said. (IANS)

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Scientists Find New Ways of Tracking Objects by Combining DNA of Dust Particles

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists

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Scientists say they have new ways of tracking where clothing, medicines and other items are made, making it harder for unscrupulous businesses to sell items that don't work or violate laws. VOA

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists.

Researchers are analyzing the microorganisms in dust particles that land on surfaces and are using artificial intelligence to read and classify the unique genetic codes of the microbes that vary from place to place.

“It is the collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa that are present in any environment,” said Jessica Green, microbial systems expert and co-founder of Phylagen, a company that is building a microbial map of the world. Phylagen is collecting dust from different places and turning it into data by studying the DNA of the microscopic organisms in the particles.

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This digitally colorized microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shows Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in yellow. Bacteria are part of the collection of microorganisms that tell scientists where an object has been. VOA

Exposing labor abuses

Phylagen says its findings will provide real world applications. The California-based company says one application involves companies that outsource the manufacturing of products, such as clothing.

According to Human Rights Watch, unauthorized subcontracting of facilities in the apparel industry occurs often, and it is in these places that some of the worse labor abuses happen.

Phylagen is digitizing the genome of different locations by working in more than 40 countries and sampling the dust in hundreds of factories. The goal is to create a database so the microbes on each product can be traced.

“We sample the DNA of the products, and then, we use machine learning algorithms to map what is on the product with the factory, and can therefore verify for brands that their goods are made by their trusted suppliers in factories where you have good labor conditions, good environmental conditions versus unauthorized facilities which can be really detrimental,” Green said.

Tracking diseases, ships

With a database of distinct microbial DNA, Green said other possible future uses could include predicting the outbreak of disease and helping law enforcement track the movement of ships, since shipping logs can be falsified. Even counterfeit medicines could be traced as the database of microbial information grows, she said.

ALSO READ: Electric Cars Can Help You Live Longer: Study

“We can sequence the DNA of seized counterfeit pills, cluster together pills that have similar microbial signatures and then use that to help both pharmaceutical companies and the government, the U.S. government, gain some intelligence about how many different sources of these manufacturing facilities are there,” Green said. (VOA)