biology technology

Meet the Next Generation CRISPR

There’s a new version of CRISPR, the gene editing tool that cuts swaths out of DNA and replaces them with new DNA that, for example, doesn’t contain the code for vulnerabilities to genetically inherited diseases. This version, however, radically improves on the old technology because it can rewrite DNA without actually cutting the DNA (which can damage and introduce errors into the genome). It’s called “prime editing”.

From MIT Technology Review’s article by Antonio Regalado:

Today, in the latest — and possibly most important — of recent improvements to CRISPR technology, Liu is introducing “prime editing,” a molecular gadget he says can rewrite any type of genetic error without actually severing the DNA strand, as CRISPR does.

The new technology uses an engineered protein that, according to a report by Liu and 10 others today in the journal Nature, can transform any single DNA letter into any other, as well as add or delete longer stretches. In fact, Liu claims it’s capable of repairing nearly any of the 75,000 known mutations that cause inherited disease in humans.

From the abstract of the report:

Prime editing substantially expands the scope and capabilities of genome editing, and in principle could correct about 89% of known pathogenic human genetic variants.

Wired, Scientific American, and Nature all have more on this story.