Crop Biotech Update

Enzyme Engineering Boosts Super-precise CRISPR Tool

February 12, 2020

Experts from Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and partners continue to improve gene editing. With a new super-precise version of CRISPR, the researchers have boosted its accuracy by engineering enzymes that can accurately target DNA without introducing as many unwanted mutations. Their findings are reported in Nature Biotechnology.

To detect unwanted DNA edits than may cause harm, researchers conduct full genome sequencing, but it is a long and expensive process. To address this, the experts developed new methods to find off-target mutations in bacteria and human cells without the need for full genome sequencing. One of the devised methods entails insertion of base editors into bacteria and then tested for resistance to an antibiotic drug. The higher the frequency with which bacterial cells became resistant, the more active the base editor was in mutating the DNA in resistance genes.

The team used the methods to search for base-editing enzymes with better fidelity. This led them to a collection of enzymes that can convert cytosine to thymine without several off-target mutations. This is very important in using base editing as medicine. The team is planning to screen for base editors that will work well in plant cells.

Read more findings in Nature Biotechnology and Nature.

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