Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Breakthrough shows how DNA is 'edited' to correct genetic diseases

27.05.2014

An international team of scientists has made a major step forward in our understanding of how enzymes 'edit' genes, paving the way for correcting genetic diseases in patients.

Researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Münster and the Lithuanian Institute of Biotechnology have observed the process by which a class of enzymes called CRISPR – pronounced 'crisper' – bind and alter the structure of DNA.

The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) today, provide a vital piece of the puzzle if these genome editing tools are ultimately going to be used to correct genetic diseases in humans.

CRISPR enzymes were first discovered in bacteria in the 1980s as an immune defence used by bacteria against invading viruses. Scientists have more recently shown that one type of CRISPR enzyme – Cas9 – can be used to edit the human genome - the complete set of genetic information for humans.

These enzymes have been tailored to accurately target a single combination of letters within the three billion base pairs of the DNA molecule. This is the equivalent of correcting a single misspelt word in a 23-volume encyclopaedia.

To find this needle in a haystack, CRISPR enzymes use a molecule of RNA - a nucleic acid similar in structure to DNA. The targeting process requires the CRISPR enzymes to pull apart the DNA strands and insert the RNA to form a sequence-specific structure called an 'R-loop'.

The global team tested the R-loop model using specially modified microscopes in which single DNA molecules are stretched in a magnetic field. By altering the twisting force on the DNA, the researchers could directly monitor R-loop formation events by individual CRISPR enzymes.

This allowed them to reveal previously hidden steps in the process and to probe the influence of the sequence of DNA bases.

Professor Mark Szczelkun, from Bristol University's School of Biochemistry, said: "An important challenge in exploiting these exciting genome editing tools is ensuring that only one specific location in a genome is targeted.

"Our single molecule assays have led to a greater understanding of the influence of DNA sequence on R-loop formation. In the future this will help in the rational re-engineering of CRISPR enzymes to increase their accuracy and minimise off-target effects. This will be vital if we are to ultimately apply these tools to correct genetic diseases in patients. "

###

The work was funded at the University of Bristol by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Wellcome Trust.

Paper

'Direct observation of R-loop formation by single RNA-guided Cas9 and Cascade effector complexes' by Mark D. Szczelkuna, Maria S. Tikhomirovab, Tomas Sinkunasd, Giedrius Gasiunasd, Tautvydas Karvelisd, Patrizia Pscherac, Virginijus Siksnysd and Ralf Seidel in PNAS.

About the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467m (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

Philippa Walker | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.bristol.ac.uk/

Further reports about: BBSRC Biotechnology Breakthrough CRISPR DNA PNAS RNA bacteria diseases enzymes humans sequence structure

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>