Using CRISPR to program gels with new functions | 8/14/2019 | Staff
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The CRISPR genome-editing system is best-known for its potential to correct disease-causing mutations and add new genes into living cells. Now, a team from MIT and Harvard University has deployed CRISPR for a completely different purpose: creating novel materials, such as gels, that can change their properties when they encounter specific DNA sequences.

The researchers showed they could use CRISPR to control electronic circuits and microfluidic devices, and to release drugs, proteins, or living cells from gels. Such materials could be used to create diagnostic devices for diseases such as Ebola, or to deliver treatments for diseases such as irritable bowel disease.

Study - Starting - Point - CRISPR - Materials

"This study serves as a nice starting point for showing how CRISPR can be utilized in materials science for a really wide range of applications," says James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and Department of Biological Engineering, and the senior author of the study.

The lead authors of the study, which appears in the Aug. 22 online edition of Science, are MIT graduate students Max Atti English, Luis Soenksen, and Raphael Gayet, and postdoc Helena de Puig.

CRISPR - DNA-cutting - Proteins - Cas - Enzymes

CRISPR is based on DNA-cutting proteins called Cas enzymes, which bind to short RNA guides that direct them to specific areas of the genome. Cas cuts DNA in those locations, deleting a gene or allowing new genetic sequences to be introduced.

Over the past several years, much research has been devoted to developing CRISPR as a gene-editing tool for treating disease by cutting out or repairing faulty genes. The MIT and Harvard team set out to adapt it for creating materials that could respond to external cues such as the presence of a certain sequence of DNA.

Work - Cas12a

For this work, they used an enzyme known as Cas12a, which can be programmed to bind to...
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