Thursday January 17, 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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genes
Your uncle's genes may decide your longevity: Study. 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.

genes
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)

Next Story

Novel DNA Tool Can Help You Trace Your Origins to Vikings

The researchers found that ancient genomes typically consist of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of markers

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New DNA tool can trace your origins to Vikings, Pixabay

Think, that your ancestors were Roman Britons, Vikings or ancient Israelites? A new DNA tool can help you trace your similarity to these ancient people who once roamed the earth, say researchers.

Currently the study of ancient DNA requires a lot of information to classify a skeleton to a population or find its biogeographical origins.

But, scientists from the UK’s University of Sheffield, defined a new concept called Ancient Ancestry Informative Markers (aAIMs) — a group of mutations that are sufficiently informative to identify and classify ancient populations.

They found that the identification of a small group of aAIMs that can be used to classify skeletons to ancient populations.

“We developed a new method that finds aAIMs efficiently and have proved that it is accurate,” said lead author Eran Elhaik, from Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.

The new tool identifies aAIMs by combining traditional methodology with a novel one that takes into account a mixture.

DNA double helix
DNA double helix. Wikimedia

People are currently unable to trace their primeval origins because commercial microarrays, such as the ones used for genetic genealogy, do not have relevant markers.

But aAIMs is like finding the fingerprints of ancient people, Elhaik noted.

“It allows testing of a small number of markers – that can be found in a commonly available array – and you can ask what part of your genome is from Roman Britons or Viking, or Chumash Indians, or ancient Israelites, etc,” he explained.

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“We can ask any question we want about these ancient people as long as someone sequenced these ancient markers.”

The researchers found that ancient genomes typically consist of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of markers.

“We demonstrated that only 13,000 markers are needed to make accurate population classifications for ancient genomes and while the field of ancient forensics does not exist yet, these aAIMs can help us get much closer to ancient people,” Elhaik said. (IANS)