Caribou Biosciences, Inc of Berkeley, CA is doing the impossible. They have invented CRISPR-Cas, a new editing system. It edits the specific DNA sequences of any genome. This looks to do for biotech what quantum computing promises to do for the world of cyber-technology. One of its introductory webpages reads: “Engineering Any Genome, at any site, in any way.”
Their website is located at http://cariboubio.com/
Their brief article there cited indicates the beginning of change for our future in these words:
The CRISPR-Cas system is spreading like wildfire among researchers across the globe who are searching for new ways to manipulate genes. Barrangou says that the paper’s findings will allow researchers to increase the specificity and efficiency in targeting DNA, setting the stage for more precise genetic modifications.
The work by Barrangou and Beisel holds promise in manipulating relevant bacteria for use in food — think of safer and more effective probiotics for your yogurt, for example — and in model organisms used in agriculture, including gene editing in crops to make them less susceptible to disease.
The NY Times reported on this in March. One of the most important lines in the article indicates the potential this editing system has for altering diseases (like the ebola virus or any other invader we might wish to undo):
“The real frenzy, however, started in 2012, when a team led by Emmanuelle Charpentier, then at Umea University in Sweden, and Jennifer A. Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated a way for researchers to use CRISPR to slice up any DNA sequence they choose.Scientists must synthesize a strand of DNA’s chemical cousin RNA, part of which matches the DNA sequence to be sliced. This “guide RNA” is attached to a bacterial enzyme called Cas9. When the guide RNA binds to the corresponding DNA sequence, Cas9 cuts the DNA at that site.
The cell tries to repair the cut but often does so imperfectly, which is enough to disable, or knock out a gene. To change a gene, scientists usually insert a patch — a bit of DNA similar to where the break occurred but containing the desired change. That patch is sometimes incorporated into the DNA when the cell repairs the break.
Would this work in organisms besides bacteria?”