Getting real: CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing causes lots of mutations
Fabian Schmidt, 19.07.2018
DNA helix illustration (Imago/Science Photo Library)
The molecular biological gene editing CRISPR/Cas9 method regularly causes unwanted mutations. This also happens in areas of the genome far from the target areas that medical researchers and molecular biologists may seek to change using this promising innovative tool.
That is the sobering result of a study by molecular biologists Michael Kosicki, Kärt Tomberg and Allan Bradley of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK.The study was published in the journal"Nature Biotechnology" on July 16.
Great expectations in medicine and biology
Since the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna in 2011, gene editing has been considered a decisive scientific breakthrough by medical doctors and molecular biologists.
The doctors hope that cutting out individual genes with high-precisionwill help correct genetic diseases such as sickle cell anaemia.
Gene editing can theoretically also be used in plant breeding and numerous other areas of molecular biological research. But it is probably not that simple in practice.
Not the entire genome in view
The authors note that so far "exploration of Cas9-induced genetic alterations has been limited to the immediate vicinity of the target site and distal off-target sequences, leading to the conclusion that CRISPR–Cas9 was reasonably specific."
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