About Anna Meldolesi

science writer

Plant editing gets easier with CRISPR loaded pollen

maisPollination is a natural way to deliver DNA into plant cells. So why not to use pollen as a vehicle for CRISPR machinery to start genome editing? HI Edit, as this approach is called, has been successfully tested by Syngenta in corn, Arabidopsis and wheat in the lab. Please see the paper just published in Nature Biotechnology by Timothy Kelliher et al., Jon Cohen’s piece in Science, and a quick guide to HI (haploid induction) from Current Biology. Leading wheat geneticist Cristobal Uauy of the John Innes Centre also showed high spirit, when asked for comment by email: “The possibility to genome edit any variety is revolutionary given that transformation is so difficult in many species. If I understand this correctly this would be a game changer as it would allow us to alter genes in elite cultivars.”

Editing Duchenne. Where are we now?

Duchenne CRISPR

© STEVE GRAEPEL (“Infographic: Treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy with CRISPR“, The Scientist, September 2018)

In 2013, multiple labs sharpened CRISPR molecular scissors against Duchenne muscular dystrophy, using cells from patients in vitro. In 2016, the dystrophin gene was successfully edited in mice. Then last summer, Eric Olson did it in dogs . Where are we now in the struggle to cure this severe type of myopathy afflicting 300,000 boys in the world? What is still needed to move into a clinical trial? Continue reading

CRISPR patent update

PatentDisputeThe patent landscape is getting more complex and fragmented, as more and more CRISPR patents are granted. The world’s eyes, however, are on the foundational patent soon to be granted to the University of California after an epic legal battle with the Broad Institute. That does not automatically mean the end of a story that will be studied in Intellectual Property textbooks. In the meantime, smaller disputes over key licenses are already heating up.

CasX: the smaller the crispier

cas treeTime will tell if it is going to become the preferred enzyme for genome editing or just another useful tool in the expanding CRISPR kit. But the future of CasX looks bright. It is much smaller than the nucleases that have provided a foundation for this technology. Being fewer than a thousand amino acids, it offers clear advantages for delivery in comparison with Cas9, that is over 1,300 Aa. Continue reading

Developing CRISPR for developing countries

iita

Researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya, are using CRISPR to inactivate the banana streak virus DNA in the genome of plantain. Their strategy, reported in Communications Biology today, paves the way for improving banana breeding and getting better varieties of this staple food crop. This project is a welcome addition to the list of CRISPR applications being considered for developing countries’ agriculture, such as maize varieties resistant to lethal necrosis and cassava resistant to brown streak disease.

 

150 years after Mendel, say hello to CopyCat Mice

white miceDo you remember the first lab mice equipped with (almost) working CRISPR-based gene drives? The results were pre-printed in bioRxiv last July, but the paper by Kimberly Cooper and colleagues is published in Nature today.  The University of California San Diego has made a video explaining the experiment scheme. And Bruce Conklin, from the University of California San Francisco, comments “on the road to a gene drive in mammals” also in Nature. Below are few excerpts from his News&Views. Continue reading