Biotech Updates

Improved CRISPR System with Power on Switch for Gene Editing

February 13, 2019

CRISPR is one of the power tools used by molecular biologists in gene-editing. However, the system lacks one important part - a switch. If something goes wrong, there's no switch for shutting it down. Thus, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley worked on improving the system.

The researchers used circular permutation and reorganized CRISPR into a programmable tool called ProCas9 which can silently exist within cells until an external factor such as viral infection turns it on. ProCas9 works like an extra layer of security, limiting the editing ability of CRISPR to only a subset of cells to ensure accurate cutting. ProCas9 may also respond to Boolean inputs such as "and" or "not", thus, will only activate when a set of instructions are met. For example, an instruction that says "the cell is infected" leads to a response to "sacrifice the cell", activating CRISPR to cut the genes vital for survival.

Read more from Cell and Berkeley News.