Scientists have found a way to apply the powerful gene-editing technology to proteins as well as genes opening the door to more diseases being treated.
CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, is continuing to be used in promising experiments and even sets to be involved in treating various conditions from Huntington’s Disease to cancer. Its use could revolutionize the way these potential life-debilitating diseases are targeted for treatment, reports The Washington Post.
This tool allows scientists to edit DNA extremely precisely and therefore able to target rouge genes and cut them out permanently. However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have now gone one step further and used CRISPR with a type of mouth bacterium to edit RNA – the part of the cell that allows genes to transform into proteins. This could result in the ability to target cancer cells by adjusting the proteins and rid of the cancer cells altogether.
The researchers explained how they engineered the C2c2 enzyme, an enzyme used to protect bacteria from being attacked from a virus. It’s this enzyme that is used to break certain RNA sequences – this is where the DNAs genetic code is stored ready to be turned into proteins.
CRISPR is therefore adding better control to current techniques involving RNA and could potentially replace weekly drugs with a CRISPR RNA-based therapy that can be administered less frequently.
“By manipulating RNA, researchers could influence gene activity as well as protein production in the body, allowing them to turn this process up, down, on or off without altering any genetic codes stored in the RNA,” said Feng Zhang, from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who is involved in the study.
Zhang says early results are promising and is continuing further experiments to see if the process can be applied to human genes.
“C2c2 opens the door to an entirely new frontier of powerful CRISPR tools. There are an immense number of possibilities for C2c2 and we are excited to develop it into a platform for life science research and medicine.”
The findings were published last week in the journal Science.