CRISPR / Cas9 is a form of genetic editing that has many promises, such as the killing of cancer cells, but it also comes with some serious warnings, such as that it can cause DNA damage. Until now, scientists have been using CRISPR / Cas9 in various plants and animals to edit genetic information, including attempts to practice so-called "active genetics."
This last approach is an attempt to edit the genome that controls which of the two copies of a gene is passed on to the next generation. But the technique is complex and abundant of obstacles, so far it is used only for insects. No longer!
A team of biologists has already achieved the world's first CRISPR / Cas9-based approach to controlling genetic inheritance in mammals.
"Our motivation was to develop this as a tool for laboratory researchers to control the inheritance of multiple genes in mice," said the project's chief assistant California University of San Diego Kimberly Cooper. "With further developments, we believe that it will be possible to make animal models of complex human genetic diseases, such as arthritis and cancer, which are currently not possible."
To achieve their high goals, researchers have created an active genetic "CopyCat" DNA element in the mouse gene responsible for fur color and successfully controlled the color of the mouse skin, making it white instead of black. After that, for a period of two years, they expanded their work to determine successfully that the CopyCat element could be copied from one chromosome to another to repair a DNA breakthrough directed by CRISPR / Cas9.
As a result, they found so much 86% of the offspring of mice inherited from the female parent's CopyCat element. This was a great improvement to the usual 50% naturally achieved.
According to OK San Diego Professor Eaton Beer, co-author of the study, results "pave the way for a variety of applications in synthetic biology, including the modular assembly of complex genetic systems to study different biological processes."
Cooper and her team are trying to further develop this first mammalian genetic success by expanding it to multiple genes instead of the possible change of the single gene.
"We have shown that we can turn a genotype from a heterozygous into a homozygote.We now want to see if we can effectively control the inheritance of three genes in an animal.If this can be applied to several genes at once, it can revolutionize mouse genetics, Cooper.
Study of evolution
Work can significantly reduce the time and cost needed to advance biomedical research on human illnesses. But for Cooper and her team this is more than that. Her research is also a way of studying evolution itself.
"We are also interested in understanding the mechanisms of evolution," Cooper said. "For some traits that have evolved for tens of millions of years, the number of genetic changes is greater than we can now gather in mice to find out what causes the bats to become a wing, for example. these active genetic tools to understand the origin of the diversity of mammals. "
The study was published in the journal Nature.