Ability to introduce or reverse the spread of genetic traits through populations could one day improve pest management and disease control
In parallel with their development of the first synthetic gene drives – which greatly increase the chance a specific gene will be passed on to all offspring – George Church, Ph.D., and Kevin Esvelt, Ph.D., helped pioneer proactive biosafety measures to ensure that gene drives are investigated effectively and safely in confined laboratory experiments. They envision that synthetic gene drives designed using an RNA-guided gene editing system known as CRISPR-Cas9 – which works like a pair of molecular scissors to precisely cut or edit DNA – could one day be used outside of the lab to prevent transmission of deadly insect and animal-borne diseases and eradicate invasive species that threaten the ecosystem and agriculture.
Now, in a new study published in Nature Biotechnology on November 16, a team led by Church and Esvelt at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School (HMS) demonstrates effective safeguarding mechanisms for working with gene drives and unveils a first-of-its-kind method for reversing the changes they spread.
“Any claim of reversibility of modern technology requires strong evidence,” said Church, who is a Wyss Core Faculty member, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at HMS, and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT. “This is a major step in that direction for the field of synthetic biology.”
Alongside researchers on the Wyss Institute’s Synthetic Biology platform, Church and Esvelt, who is a Wyss Technology Development Fellow, have led the gene drive research community in discussions about responsible laboratory conduct and proactive confinement guidelines for the safeguarding of gene drive research. Their latest study verifies the efficacy of safeguarding protocols developed by their team, such as increased and improved physical biocontainment barriers and the introduction of so-called “molecular confinement” mechanisms which use genetic engineering to block laboratory organisms from surviving and reproducing in the highly unlikely event they ever escaped into the ecosystem.
“The gene drive research community has been actively discussing what should be done to safeguard shared ecosystems, and now we have demonstrated that the proposed safeguards work extremely well and should therefore be used by every gene drive researcher in every relevant lab organism,” said Esvelt.
CRISPR gene drives work by using sequences of RNA to guide the gene-cutting Cas9 protein to a specific target gene for editing. The molecular confinement mechanisms developed by the team prevent gene drives from functioning in the wild by manipulating these biological components. By separating the guide RNA and the Cas9 protein so that they are not encoded together in the same organism, or by inserting an artificial sequence into the targeted gene, gene drives can only be activated in lab organisms and are therefore not able to function in the wild.
“Using yeast in the lab, we also showed that a trait imposed on a population using a gene drive could be reversed,” said the paper’s first co-first author James Dicarlo, a graduate research assistant at the Wyss Institute and HMS. The team notes that using this safeguard, essentially any population-level change mediated by a gene drive could be subsequently overwritten if the need ever arose. In such a case, the originally imposed trait would be reversed and the biological “machinery” of the CRISPR gene drive system – the guide RNAs and the Cas9 protein – would remain present, albeit rendered inactive, in the DNA of organisms.
The reversibility mechanism isn’t just a useful backup to have on hand in case a gene drive ever had an unexpected side-effect; the ability to impose or reverse gene drive effects could also one day prove useful for the management of disease transmitting organisms such as mosquitoes, invasive species, and crop-destroying insects.
Although more research needs to be done in the lab before gene drives will ever potentially be ready for use outside of confined laboratory experiments, researchers now have the tools to perform those experiments safely. And in the meantime, gene drives themselves are useful lab tools for perturbing the genomes of lab organisms and unlocking new insights into the complex interplay of genes.
The Latest on: Gene drives
via Google News
The Latest on: Gene drives
- Rhonda Vincent Marion show postponed, but you can see her if you want to make a driveon January 27, 2021 at 2:00 pm
Rhonda Vincent fans should not be discouraged. She will probably be in Marion in the near future with her standout band The Rage. In the meantime, Vincent enthusiasts will have ...
- The shocking, American and Jewish moment Gene Scheer heard President Biden recite his ‘American Anthem’on January 27, 2021 at 7:34 am
Gene Scheer had a deadline looming. He was getting ready for the CD release of one of his Holocaust-related works, timed for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, one week away. But on Jan. 20, ...
- Surprising behavior of transcription factors challenges theories of gene regulationon January 27, 2021 at 5:39 am
How cells develop and the diseases that arise when development goes wrong have been a decades-long research focus in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor of Biology Ellen Rothenberg. In ...
- Gene Editing Tools Market is expected to grow at an approximate CAGR of 18% over 2019-2029on January 26, 2021 at 2:28 am
Market players are extending their product portfolios and are making investments to fulfill the research requirements. FMI in its recent study on the ...
- Gene Knight Exits Afternoons at KYXY (96.5)/San Diegoon January 25, 2021 at 12:59 pm
ALL ACCESS has learned that in addition to last week's programming changes at ENTERCOM's AC KYXY (96.5) and Classic Hits KXSN (SUNNY 98.1)/SAN DIEGO (NET NEWS 1/19), GENE KNIGHT’s PM Drive position ...
- Gene Delivery Systems Market By Development, Trends, Investigation 2020 And Forecast To 2026on January 22, 2021 at 9:15 pm
Jan (Market Insight Reports) -- Global Gene Delivery Systems Market identifies major important questions and points, categorizing information ...
- Gene co-expression in the interactome: moving from correlation toward causation via an integrated approach to disease module discovery | npj Systems Biology and Applicationson January 21, 2021 at 9:34 am
In this study, we integrate the outcomes of co-expression network analysis with the human interactome network to predict novel putative disease genes and modules. We first apply the SWItch Miner (SWIM ...
- Biomolecular condensation of NUP98 fusion proteins drives leukemogenic gene expressionon January 20, 2021 at 4:00 pm
A mass spectrometry–based approach is used to investigate the mechanisms by which different NUP98 fusion proteins cause leukemia, revealing that the fusion proteins share common interactors and alter ...
- Gene Therapy Market Size by Business Status 2021: Covid-19 Impact and Recovery, Growth Share, and Industry Revenue Forecast to 2026on January 19, 2021 at 6:54 pm
Final Report will add the analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on this industry." The “Gene Therapy Market” report is ...
- Gene Therapy for Rare Diseases: Strategies to Drive Operations, Upcoming Webinar Hosted by Xtalkson January 17, 2021 at 10:30 am
In this free webinar, the featured speakers will discuss the scientific, clinical, regulatory and operational complexities specific to rare disease clinical development. Attendees will learn how to ...
via Bing News