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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1 Million Sign Petition to Halt Approval of GMOs

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Just say no to GMOs

There’s a unique initiative built into the new EU constitutional treaty, called the “European citizen’s initiative”. It allows a million or more people to join together, in the form of a petition, to ask the governing body to change legislation. And guess what the first test run for the initiative’s efficacy is going to be? A petition, sponsored by Greenpeace, that asks the EU to stop approving new genetically modified foods. More than a million people have signed on to support the measure…

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