Scientists demonstrate effective strategies for safeguarding CRISPR gene-drive experiments

Phys.org | January 22, 2019

Researchers have demonstrated for the first time how two molecular strategies can safeguard CRISPR gene-drive experiments in the lab, according to a study published today in eLife. Their findings, first reported on bioRxiv, suggest that scientists can effectively use synthetic target sites and split drives to conduct gene-drive research, without the worry of causing an accidental spread throughout a natural population. Gene drives, such as those trialled in malaria mosquitoes, are genetic packages designed to spread among populations. They do this via a process called 'drive conversion', where the Cas9 enzyme and a molecule called guide RNA (gRNA) cut at a certain site in the genome. The drive is then copied in when the DNA break is repaired.
"CRISPR-based gene drives have sparked both enthusiasm and deep concerns due to their potential for genetically altering entire species," explains first author Jackson Champer, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University, New York. "This raises the question about our ability to prevent the unintended spread of such drives from the laboratory into the natural world. "Current strategies for avoiding accidental spread involve physically confining drive-containing organisms. However, it is uncertain whether this sufficiently reduces the likelihood of any accidental escape into the wild, given the possibility of human error."

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Learn how to count nuclei in your images with MetaMorph NX. The technique generally works well with images that have uneven backgrounds

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Learn how to count nuclei in your images with MetaMorph NX. The technique generally works well with images that have uneven backgrounds

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