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CRISPR meets Pac-Man: New DNA cut-and-paste tool enables bigger gene edits

Date: 21.10.2020 

Gene editing for the development of new treatments, and for studying disease as well as normal function in humans and other organisms, may advance more quickly with a new tool for cutting larger pieces of DNA out of a cell's genome, according to a new study by UC San Francisco scientists.

Kredit: Namco / Wikimedia Commons.The already renowned CRISPR-Cas9 ensemble is like a molecular chisel that can be used to rapidly and precisely excise a small bit of DNA at a targeted site. Other methods can then be used to insert new DNA.

But the new CRISPR-Cas3 system adapted by the UCSF scientists employs a different bacterial immune system. The key enzyme in this system, Cas3, acts more like a molecular wood chipper to remove much longer stretches of DNA quickly and accurately.

"Cas3 is like Cas9 with a motor – after finding its specific DNA target, it runs on DNA and chews it up like a Pac-Man," Bondy-Denomy said.

This new capability to delete or replace long stretches of DNA will enable researchers to more efficiently assess the importance of genomic regions that contain DNA sequences of indeterminate function, according to Bondy-Denomy, an important consideration in understanding humans and the pathogens that plague them.





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