The fastest CRISPR has a photoswitch

Very fast CRISPR activated by light [Credit: Ella Marushchenko]

Genome editing + optogenetics = very fast CRISPR (vfCRISPR). Two revolutionary techniques meet in the paper by Yang Liu and colleagues just published in Science. The Johns Hopkins University team developed a caged RNA strategy that allows Cas9 to bind DNA but needs light at wavelengths that are not phototoxic to activate cleavage. The cut is immediate upon light exposure, offering scientists a way to study DNA repair from its start. The process is so precise that one allele of a gene can be edited at a time, allowing the generation of heterozygous mutations for studying complex genetic traits. See also the perspective by Darpan Medhi and Maria Jasin in Science.

Waiting for the next Asimov

The DNA double helix as a metaphor for the relationship between genetics and SciFi – novels and movies on the one strand and scientific breakthroughs on the other strand. It’s courtesy of graduated student Kartik Lakshmi Rallapalli, who examines the science and fiction timelines in a post for the Addgene blog.

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Singing in the Lab

If you enjoyed “Bring me a gene” by Tim Blais and wished your friends “A Merry Little CRISPR”, be sure not to miss “The Patent” by Rob Nichols. It’s a parody of “Obedient Servant” from the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “based on the actual events of the CRISPR Revolutionary War”. For an IP update, please see this press-release announcing the 20th CRISPR patent awarded to UC Berkeley.

George Church futures

The new coronavirus spreading in China is one more reason to hear from the multi-talented geneticist how we could make our life virus-proof with DNA recoding and other exciting stuff coming from the Church Lab.

The Leapsmag video “Defeating nature’s deadliest killers with Harvard scientist George Church”

The CRISPR Journal podcast “George Church, triple threat (reader/writer/editor)”

CRISPR at its hottest

Source AddGene blog

The picture shows a moment in the sample-collecting effort leading to this Pnas paper about a novel heat-tolerant CRISPR enzyme called IgnaviCas9. Exploring nature’s molecular diversity in extreme environmental conditions such as Yellowstone hot springs can yield exciting discoveries and applications.

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Unnatural selection, don’t stop at episode 1

I binge-watched Unnatural Selection, as many CRISPR enthusiasts have done. My review in a few words: the Netflix miniseries is a patchwork of bad and good. On the minus side, too many biohackers and too little real science. On the plus side, some interesting reporting on social issues, such as public engagement of local communities and the challenge of patient access to novel therapies. To sum up: episode 1 on biohacking is the worst, episode 3 on gene drives is the best. So my advice is: don’t give up at the first disappointing scenes. You might want to, but do not stop.