Biotech Updates

Hokkaido University Researchers Develop CRISPR/Cas9-Based Method for Gene Activation

July 13, 2016

Scientists have recently developed the gene-editing tool, CRIPSR/Cas9, which allows them to add, remove or replace specific parts of DNA. However, scientists have not yet used it to activate genes. A team, headed by Toru Kondo from Hokkaido University has developed a new technique that allows them to activate genes.

Promoters are the key in turning genes on or off. A gene is switched off when its promoter is methylated. They combined the DNA repair mechanism microhomology-mediated end-joining (MMEJ) with CRISPR/Cas9. They removed the "off" promoter using CRISPR/Cas9 and then inserted an unmethylated, "on" promoter with MMEJ.

They tested the tool on the neural cell gene OLIG2. After switching the OLIG2 gene "on"in cultured human stem cells, the cells differentiated to neurons with high efficiency. The system also didn't cause any unwanted mutations in non-targeted genes.

For more on this study, read the article in Angewandte Chemie.