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Jan 03, 2017 03:22 AM EST

Latest CRISPR Discovery May Pave Way For Human Gene Editing

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The latest discovery on how CRISPR works may actually make it even easier to edit human genes. Apparently, it can be shut off by a tiny protein.

Live Science reported that the CRISPR-Cas9 can be shut down using a tiny protein, which is used by viruses in their battle with bacteria. This discovery can help minimize the risk involved in the CRISPR system which has the possibility of destroying the incorrect gene or introduce wrong genetic changes.

Study author Joseph Bondy-Denomy, a microbiologist at the University of California - San Francisco, said that the anti-CRISPR is simply a single protein which can be made in the cell or delivered to the cell in order to turn off Cas9. This can stop it from binding and cutting DNA.

The CRISPR-Cas9 is currently being used for bacterial immune defense against viruses. It works when a virus invades a bacterial cell, the bacteria activates a sequence of DNA called the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats).

The bacteria copy and insert the DNA sequence into the CRISPR and releases two strands of RNA. It is then associated with an enzyme called Cas9. Acting as a pair of scissors, the Cas9 targets the viral DNA and snips it out. The cell then repairs the DNA by replacing it with another piece, which is usually supplied by scientists.

According to Phys.org, a lot of people hope that the CRISPR can soon be used to treat genetic disorders. However, it was noted that the technology is not yet as precise. Some researchers are also concerned that this powerful tool can be used for harm instead of for humanity's good.

Vox added that, in the future, the CRISPR-Cas9 may be useful in editing crops to be more nutritious and tasty. It can also help in the development of powerful new antibiotics and antivirals.

Furthermore, because of its power, the system actually has the potential to modify an entire species. Scientists can use CRISPR to make sure that a particular gene gets passed on when creatures mate.

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