Monday , September 26 2022

What can we expect from the genetic edition in 2019?


Among the numerous scientific and technological advances of 2018, it is worth mentioning the genetic edition. Last year, while some discussed whether it was correct or not to edit food, a scientist created the first genetically modified babies. What is 2019 waiting for us?

The year 2018 ended with feelings found in the field of the genetic edition. On the one hand, we are still aware of the great potential that the CRISPR tools offer us. Of the other, we have witnessed the probable first misuse of the same. After an absolutely irresponsible experiment carried out without control or permission, outside the law, in China, the first babies edited.

This news, surely, will propitiate in 2019 many debates and initiatives to adopt international norms that can prevent similar absurdities from repeating. At a minimum, before editing procedures are safe enough, and then try to get the agreement of all the sectors involved in society, not just scientists.

the evolution of the techniques of genetic edition CRISPR It is so fast that it may seem reckless to predict what the next progress will be. Thanks to the recent results we can imagine next year will be the consolidation and explosion of the first therapeutic strategies based on CRISPR.

We talk about gene therapies ex vivoWith cells obtained from the patients, published in the laboratory and returned to the same person, directed to the treatment of diseases of the blood. For therapies in vivoDirectly on patients, we will still have to wait a little longer. However, it is possible that we see the first clinical trials carried out on the eye for the treatment of, for example, degenerative diseases of the retina.

New CRISPR systems

The year 2018 started with a surprising result, obtained at the University of Stanford by researcher Matthew Porteus. He was the one who realized that most people have antibodies and anti-CAS9 lymphocytes. These serve against the most common nucleases used in the CRISPR world, derived from two pathogenic bacteria for the man: Streptococcus pyogenes i Staphylococcus aureus.

The finding of Porteus contained an implicit call to the research community to isolate and characterize other CRISPR systems of other bacteria that are unknown to our immune system. That is why I think that in 2019 we will begin to Discover new CRISPR systems isolated from bacteria They have no known relationship with people.

The year 2019 may also be the year of David Liu, the specialist in Chemistry and Synthetic Biology at the BROAD Institute in Boston. He is the promoter of the denominated ones base editorsOne of the variants of CRISPR tools that has generated more expectations.

Base editors are formed by a dead CAS9 nuclease, with their inactivated DNA cutting domains, but retaining their ability to join the desired gene, with the help of the # 39; RNA. The ingenuity of Liu led him to imagine a chemical machine capable of converting a C into a T, or an A into a G, in certain positions.

They use CRISPR to create pigs that could give us their organs

To this end, it associated CAS9 to dead domains with deaminase activity capable of causing the conversion of the nitrogenous bases, without the need to cut DNA. This avoids the most important limitation of the CRISPR tools: the diversity of genetic alleles that produce the dreaded mosaicism, inherent in any experiment in genetic editing.

In 2018, microbiologists also discovered ten new systems that use bacteria and archaeobacteria to defend themselves from virus infection and the intrusion of plasmids with unwanted functions. We do not know about the mechanisms that operate after each of these systems, but 2019 could be the year in which we began to discover the operation of any of them, analogous to CRISPR systems or even and everything better.

The plants published by CRISPR arrive


The year 2019 will be the year in which we will probably see how other countries, outside our European Union, begin to To market the first plants published with CRISPR, With improved production, cultivation and organoleptic characteristics.

Unfortunately, as a result of an inopportune and erroneous ruling by the EU Court, which we met in July 2018, we should be content with being mere viewers of the process. And also customers from countries that have legislated more intelligently than we do, supporting biotechnological developments based on new technologies without putting any legal impediments to escape the companies of the sector to more appropriate environments.

I have left for the end the prediction that most would like to be met. I would love to announce that in October 2019 a Nobel Prize was awarded to pioneering researchers who made possible the existence of these wonderful ones. CRISPR tools.

Especially, that among them were Francisco Juan Martínez Mojica, a microbiologist from the University of Alicante. He was the one who discovered these systems in arqueges 25 years ago, who named them for the first time as CRISPR, who felt they were the basis of an adaptive immune system of bacteria and archigos and who, definitively, goes to give way to the later investigations that led to propose its use in genetic editing.

* This article was originally published in The Conversation written by Lluís Montoliu, researcher in Molecular and Cell Biology, National Biotechnology Center (CNB – CSIC)

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