CRISPR enzyme programmed to kill viruses in human cells

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Researchers harness Cas13 as an antiviral and diagnostic for RNA-based viruses

Researchers have now turned a CRISPR RNA-cutting enzyme into an antiviral that can be programmed to detect and destroy RNA-based viruses in human cells.

Many of the world’s most common or deadly human pathogens are RNA-based viruses — Ebola, Zika and flu, for example — and most have no FDA-approved treatments. A team led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has now turned a CRISPR RNA-cutting enzyme into an antiviral that can be programmed to detect and destroy RNA-based viruses in human cells.

Researchers have previously adapted the Cas13 enzyme as a tool to cut and edit human RNA and as a diagnostic to detect the presence of viruses, bacteria, or other targets. This study is one of the first to harness Cas13, or any CRISPR system, as an antiviral in cultured human cells.

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Japan approves scientist’s plan to create world’s first Humanimals

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For the first time, a government is supporting a plan to create animal embryos with human cells and bring them to term, resulting in a type of humanimal known as a human-animal chimera.

According to Nature, a committee from Japan’s science ministry signed off on a request by researchers to grow human pancreases in either rats or mice, the first such experiment to gain approval since a government ban was reversed earlier this year.

“Finally, we are in a position to start serious studies in this field after 10 years of preparation,” lead researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

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Hacking Humans : Search & replace gene editing is here

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The introduction of CRISPR changed the world of genetic engineering by allowing researchers to “cut and paste” DNA. But the process can introduce errors that produce unpredictable results. A recently published report in the journal Nature by David Liu, a Harvard university biologist, describes a new process that is more like a “search and replace” function than a “cut and paste” function because the DNA strand is not severed during the process.

The scientists claim that “prime editing” is “capable of repairing nearly any of the 75,000 known mutations that cause inherited disease in humans.” Liu told journalists in a conference call arranged by Nature. “If CRISPR is like scissors, base editors are like a pencil. Then you can think of prime editors like a word processor, capable of precise search and replace … All will have roles.”

Genetic editing is progressing on an exponential curve. So we are exponentially closer to designer organisms of all kinds. Humans, the food supply (animals and plants), pesticides, weapons (specifically bioterrorism) and any other good or evil stuff you can think of.

The funny thing about exponential progress is that we don’t really feel it in our day-to-day lives. Think of the speed with which hollywood-style multi-million dollar computer generated movie-making tools became apps (FaceApp, Zao, etc). Now apply that speed to genetic engineering. That’s what’s coming soon to a lab near you. Stay tuned.

Via ShellyPalmer.com

 

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Gene editing transforms gel into shape-shifting material

 

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The CRISPR technique can trigger the new material to release drugs or pick up biological signals

Is there anything CRISPR can’t do? Scientists have wielded the gene-editing tool to make scores of genetically modified organisms, as well as to track animal development, detect diseases and control pests. Now, they have found yet another application for it: using CRISPR to create smart materials that change their form on command.

The shape-shifting materials could be used to deliver drugs, and to create sentinels for almost any biological signal, researchers report in Science on 22 August1. The study was led by James Collins, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Collins’ team worked with water-filled polymers that are held together by strands of DNA, known as DNA hydrogels. To alter the properties of these materials, Collins and his team turned to a form of CRISPR that uses a DNA-snipping enzyme called Cas12a. (The gene-editor CRISPR–Cas9 uses the Cas9 enzyme to snip a DNA sequence at the desired point.) The Cas12a enzyme can be programmed to recognize a specific DNA sequence. The enzyme cuts its target DNA strand, then severs single strands of DNA nearby.

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Gene-edited cattle have a major screwup in their DNA

 

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Bid for barnyard revolution is set back after regulators find celebrity “hornless” bovines contaminated by bacterial genes.

They were the poster animals for the gene-editing revolution, appearing in story after story. By adding just a few letters of DNA to the genomes of dairy cattle, a US startup company had devised a way to make sure the animals never grew troublesome horns.

To Recombinetics—the St. Paul, Minnesota gene-editing company that made the hornless cattle—the animals were messengers of a new era of better, faster, molecular farming. “This same outcome could be achieved by breeding in the farmyard,” declared the company’s then-CEO Tammy Lee Stanoch in 2017. “This is precision breeding.”

Except it wasn’t.

Food and Drug Administration scientists who had a closer look at the genome sequence of one of the edited animals, a bull named Buri, have discovered its genome contains a stretch of bacterial DNA including a gene conferring antibiotic resistance.

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In a 1st, doctors in U.S. use CRISPR tool to treat patient with genetic disorder

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Victoria Gray, 34, of Forest, Miss., volunteered for one of the most anticipated medical experiments in decades: the first attempt to use the gene-editing technique CRISPR to treat a genetic disorder in the U.S.

For the first time, doctors in the U.S. have used the powerful gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to treat a patient with a genetic disorder.

“It is just amazing how far things have come,” says Victoria Gray, 34, of Forest, Miss. “It is wonderful,” she told NPR in an exclusive interview after undergoing the landmark treatment for sickle cell disease.

Gray is the first patient ever to be publicly identified as being involved in a study testing the use of CRISPR for a genetic disease.

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Wait, What? The first human-monkey hybrid embryo was just created in China

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Last week, news broke that a prominent stem cell researcher is making human-monkey chimeras in a secretive lab in China.

The story, first reported by the Spanish newspaper El País, has all the ingredients of a bombshell. First, its protagonist is the highly-respected Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a Spanish-born stem cell biologist at the Salk Institute in California known for his breakthroughs in anti-aging research. His other fascination? Human-animal chimeras, in which animal embryos are injected with human cells and further developed inside a surrogate animal’s body. Second, according to El País, Izpisúa Belmonte may have collaborated with monkey researchers in China to circumvent legal issues in the US and Spain, where research with primates is heavily regulated.

The news did not sit well with Chinese scientists, who are still recovering from the CRISPR baby scandal. “It makes you wonder, if their reason for choosing to do this in a Chinese laboratory is because of our high-tech experimental setups, or because of loopholes in our laws?” lamented one anonymous commentator on China’s popular social media app, WeChat.

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How scientists built a ‘living drug’ to beat cancer

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IN 2010, EMILY Whitehead was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of certain cells in the immune system.

THIS IS THE most common form of childhood cancer, her parents were told, and Emily had a good chance to beat it with chemotherapy. Remission rates for the most common variety were around 85 percent.

It would be 20 months before they’d understand the shadow behind that sunny statistic, and the chilling prospect of volunteering their daughter as patient zero for the world’s first living drug.

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Using CRISPR to resurrect the dead

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Gene-editing breakthroughs could allow us to bring extinct species, like the woolly mammoth, back from the dead. But should we?

It really is worse than you think.

We’ve gorged ourselves on fossil fuels, vacuumed up the Earth’s forests and spewed toxic gases into the atmosphere for years on end. The planet is getting warmer, we’re poisoning insect populations with reckless abandon and pulling fish out of the ocean at an alarming rate. The most recent prognosis for a biodiverse Earth is incredibly grim, with 1 million species threatened with extinction in the coming decades.

The havoc we’ve generated has kickstarted Earth’s sixth great extinction event, the first by human hands. This rapid decrease in biodiversity due to human activity is unprecedented.

But we may be able to reverse it.

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His DNA solved a century-old jailhouse rape. The victim: His Grandmother

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Commercial DNA tests showed that Hiram and Bruce were related. But their link proved to be much deeper — and darker — than either could have imagined.

As a black teenager in Compton, California, in the 1970s, Hiram Johnson began to wonder about his father’s fine curly hair, and the light-brown skin that strangers sometimes thought was white.

Hiram knew only a few things about his father’s childhood. Fred Johnson was raised in Jackson, Mississippi, by his mother, Bernice. Fred said that Bernice was a “beautiful black woman,” but he never said a word about his father. All Hiram knew was that his grandfather probably wasn’t black.

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Scientists created bacteria with a synthetic genome. Is this artificial life?

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A colored scanning electron micrograph of the bacteria E. coli. Scientists in Britain created bacteria with “recoded” DNA.

In a milestone for synthetic biology, colonies of E. coli thrive with DNA constructed from scratch by humans, not nature.

Scientists have created a living organism whose DNA is entirely human-made — perhaps a new form of life, experts said, and a milestone in the field of synthetic biology.

Researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Britain reported on Wednesday that they had rewritten the DNA of the bacteria Escherichia coli, fashioning a synthetic genome four times larger and far more complex than any previously created.

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This DIY biohacker is under investigation

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Josiah Zayner rose to internet fame after performing various biohacking stunts on himself — including a livestreamed attempt to edit his own genes using CRISPR.

Those antics are coming to haunt Zayner. Now, the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is investigating a “complaint of unlicensed practice of medicine” filed against him — a strange development that could have implications for the future of biohacking.

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