The idea of “safety first” is a universal operating procedure in the world of science, especially when it comes to human health and well-being. Medical professionals, as well as their patients and families, are finding reasons to be optimistic about new technologies and capabilities in healthcare, with CRISPR gene editing being a noteworthy example.
But the ability to edit genes and make alterations in people’s DNA is not entirely fool-proof and cannot be considered 100% safe at this point. There are always complicating factor. Sometimes, technicians using CRISPR to fix a mutated gene sequence will inadvertently use the same tool to make a new mutation at some other point in the genome, as pointed out by a report from University of Texas at Austin.
Overview of CRISPR Gene Editing
The term CRISPR comes from Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Scientists Sam Sternberg and Jennifer Doudna reported on their CRISPR experiments in 2012 in the journal Science. They received a patent for CRISPR, an approach that lets you make changes to living cells.
With the assistance of enzymes, a technician edits out a genetic sequence that has a mutation and then pastes in the desired sequence. Ideally, the scientists involved will only change the DNA that they want to correct. But it’s not a perfect method yet, and mistakes sometimes occur, with CRISPR making unwanted changes in a different part of the patient’s DNA.
Scientists Use a New Tool Named Cas9 for CRISPR Gene Editing
Scientists focusing on CRISPR gene editing have a new way to adjust genetic sequences that should result in fewer editing mistakes. Previously, you would use a common tool for gene editing known as Cas9. With the Cas9 protein, you can hunt for a 20-letter DNA sequence of interest.
Unfortunately, sometimes the CRISPR technology will do an edit when it only matches 18 and not the full 20 letters in a sequence. As University of Texas at Austin puts it, scientists “were surprised to discover that when Cas9 encounters this type of mismatch in positions 18 through 20, instead of giving up and moving on, it has a finger-like structure that swoops in and holds on to the DNA, making it act as if it were the correct sequence.”
Medical professionals want more precision when they embark on a gene-editing project. Enter a new approach using SuperFi-Cas9.
It makes the required cuts as quickly as the precursor tool, Cas9, but researchers are intrigued by SuperFi-Cas9 if it can help them do their job while making fewer errors in editing the gene sequences.
Of course, they are still in the experimental phases of using SuperFi-Cas9. The new tool is still only used for work in test tubes and not in the actual living cells of a human being.
More Efficient Gene Editing With New Safety Controls Thanks to SuperFi-Cas9
In the ten years since the announcement of CRISPR, we are seeing more examples of how it can play a role in improving human health. Along the way, it’s possible that we’ll see even greater precision and efficiency in the way people can edit and improve mutations and defects in human genes. The prospect is people will succumb to fewer diseases and will enjoy life more since they are unencumbered by genetic flaws.
Since the first development of CRISPR technology to edit genes, genetics researchers and other interested parties are using this powerful tool in laboratories across the globe. The addition of employing SuperFi-Cas9 means technicians will have a tool that’s 4,000 times less likely to make edits that the scientists do not want to target.