Biotech Updates

Researcher Develops Strategy to Improve Crops and Treat Diseases

March 11, 2015

A study conducted at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is suggesting a novel strategy to enhance genome editing to increase the efficiency of making genetic improvements in a wide range of organisms. The new strategy is aimed towards improving an increasingly popular technique that grew from the recent discovery of CRISPR-Cas9.

Yinong Yang, professor of plant pathology at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences explained that CRISPR regions of the bacterial genome contain strands of repeating DNA, separated by "spacers" that match the DNA sequences of viruses that have attacked the bacterium or its ancestors.

This system allows a bacterium to "remember" and defend against the attacker if attacked again by the same virus. The bacterium generates a strand of CRISPR RNA with a specific spacer sequence that, coupled with a DNA-cutting enzyme known as CRISPR-associated protein nuclease (Cas9), targets the invader and destroys it by slicing its DNA.

Yang added, "Scientists have discovered that this system can be harnessed as a powerful tool to target and edit almost any DNA sequence in a genome. The CRISPR-Cas technology has broad applications in basic biological research, medicine, and agriculture. It is seen as the most important breakthrough in biotechnology so far this century."

Read more about this research from the Penn State website.