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­sing Light to Control Genome Editing

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Light striking a gene sequence.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have added an extra layer of control to the CRISPR gene-editing approach by making the system responsive to light.

Credit: MIT News

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have added a new technique to the CRISPR genome-editing system that enables scientists to control when and where gene editing occurs by using ultraviolet light.

The researchers say CRISPR relies on a DNA-cutting enzyme called Cas9 and its RNA guide. The RNA strand directs Cas9 into a cell, where a specific cut is made in the genome.

The MIT team says they have made the binding of the RNA strand light-sensitive, so the RNA guide will only bind to the target gene when exposed to light with a wavelength of 365 nanometers.

"You really don't have to do anything different with the cargo you were planning to deliver except to add the light-activated protector," says MIT professor Sangeeta Bhatia. "It's an attempt to make the system much more modular."

The same technique was successful in tests involving multiple genes and RNA protector sequences, demonstrating the system's precision in a multiplexed environment.

The researchers say this kind of control will help scientists study the timing of cellular and genetic events and determine the best time in a disease's progression to intervene and cut a gene.

From MIT News
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