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Is CRISPR gene editing dangerous due to errors?

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05.03.2019

Throughout the recent years, the CRISPR method has taken aback biology labs around the world with its ability to introduce precise changes to single DNA sequences, being promising in terms of both effective repairs for genetic diseases and numerous improvements in the genomes of arable crops and livestock. Still, the recently published research indicates potential risk and uncontrollable genetic changes.

David Liu - a chemist at Harvard University whose team developed the first generation of base editors - states that whereas mistakes are still a rare thing, even their occasional manifestation suffices to concern anyone considering the use of this technology in their patients.

According to Jin-Soo Kim, a CRISPR researcher at Seoul National University, the recent publications on mistakes concerning CRISPR are extremely important. What she regards as important now is to determine which particular component is behind the collateral mutations, as well as find out how to reduce or avoid them.

The original form of CRISPR uses the genome and Cas9 enzyme, with the latter acting as "molecular scissors" of one's genetic material in order to cut its DNA strands. Such an incision may be later used by researchers for the purpose of inserting a new sequence there. What is more, the molecular complex also encompasses an enzyme named deaminase that may chemically change one base into another. Since a change of this kind offers more control over specific changes than CRISPR itself, researchers did not expect themselves to cause errors of an "off-target" nature.

Source: Sciencemag

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