New DNA Editing Technique Outstrips CRISPR/Cas9 Many Times Over

A new DNA "shredder" has the potential to revolutionize disease research.

New DNA Editing Technique Outstrips CRISPR/Cas9 Many Times Over
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Researchers have developed a new tool for gene-editing that is being compared to a DNA “shredder” called CRISPR/Cas3, able to edit long sequences of DNA with programmable alterations.

Introducing CRISPR/Cas3

Geneticists at the University of Michigan (UM) and Cornell University have developed a new DNA editing tool that can be programmed to edit longer stretches of DNA than is currently possible using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing.

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Called CRISPR/Cas3, this new system has the potential to revolutionize disease research, according to UM’s Yan Zhang, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biological chemistry who led the research.

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"Cas9 is a molecular scissor that goes where you want it and snips once," said Zhang. "But Cas3 goes where you want it, travels along the chromosome, and makes a spectrum of deletions tens of kilobases long. This could make it a powerful screening tool to determine what large areas of DNA are most important for a particular disease."

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The potential lies in the ability for researchers to experiment on long stretches of DNA without knowing precisely which gene in the entire genome they need to target. With CRISPR/Cas3, they could simply alter entire stretches of DNA and see what happens.

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How CRISPR/Cas3 Works

Referred to as a “shredder,” the comparison is an apt one. Unlike the scissoring characteristic of CRISPR/Cas9, CRISPR/Cas3 moves along the entire length of the designated stretch of DNA and “shreds” the underlying material.

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Both the CRISPR-Cas-9 and CRISPR/Cas3 systems are borrowed from bacteria, but the Cas3 variety uses a Type I CRISPR, which is more common in bacteria than the Type II CRISPR used in Cas9. According to UM—who has co-patented the technique alongside Cornell University—, “Type I CRISPR has never been used in any eukaryotic cells, and employs a riboprotein complex known as Cascade for seeking its target and an enzyme called Cas3 for shredding DNA.”

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The research was published in Molecular Cell.

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