CRISPR Ikea-style

Modular design is the latest trend for developing new CRISPR tools. In The CRISPR Journal, Juan Carlos Collantes et al. present a base-editor system called Pin-point that recruits a DNA base-modifying enzyme through a hook (an RNA aptamer) within the guide-RNA molecule. In Nature Communications the goal of Lacramioara Bintu and colleagues is not base editing but epigenomic editing, the effector is a chromatin regulator and the hook is an antibody. When the CRISPR-effector combo is big, delivery of individual modules is easier. Furthermore, if the effector is already present inside the cell it can be simply recruited by providing the right hook. One more potential advantage is the convenient reconfiguration of the system by the mix and match of individual components and simultaneous recruitment of different effectors to different target sites.

CRISPR highlights in 2020

The sickle cell trial in NEJM; Covid19 test using smartphone cameras in Cell; all-male mosquitoes in Nature Biotechnology; CRISPR golden rice in Nature Communications; CRISPR meets cancer therapy in Science; mitochondrial editing in Nature; first in vivo treatment in Nature news; resistant bananas in Nature news; very fast CRISPR in Science; body parts regrowing in Science.

The Nobel Lectures and CRISPR Cas…ł

Chemistry laureates Emmanuelle Chapentier and Jennifer Doudna showing their Nobel Prize medals Credit: Nobel Prize Outreach

Here you can watch le Nobel Lectures by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. Emmanuelle is very focused and tr√®s, tr√®s chic, oui. Jennifer is generous with credits to colleagues and willing to represent the public conscience of genomic editing. The thing I liked most is the reference to CRISPR-Cas…ł: a hypercompact genome editor found in huge phages. Probably it evolved to target the genes of competing phages inside bacterial hosts.

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It’s Nobel Week, let’s party

Traditionally the Nobel Laureates travel to Stockholm to receive their prizes. This year the prizes are coming to them.¬†On 7 December, 19.00 CET, the diploma and medal will be presented to Emmanuelle Charpentier at the Swedish Ambassador’s Residence in Berlin.¬†On 8 December, 16.00 PST, it’s Jennifer Doudna’s turn at the Residence of Barbro Osher, Honorary Consul General in San Francisco.¬†Also on 8 December, 11-13 CET, we can watch online the Academy’s official Nobel Lectures 2020:¬†For the development of a method for genome editing, by¬†Emmanuelle Charpentier, and¬†The Chemistry of CRISPR: Editing the Code of Life, by¬†Jennifer A. Doudna. Full programme here.

CRISPR rising stars

Andrew Anzalone (Broad Institute), Jennifer Hamilton (Berkeley) and Cameron Myhrvold (Princeton)

December is time for rankings and forecasts. Let’s start with STAT News celebrating young talents who could become the next generation of scientific superstars. Three CRISPR researchers appear among STAT wunderkinds. As a postdoc at the Broad Institute, Andrew Anzalone helped make a key advance by developing prime editing, where the same RNA molecule specifies the target and the desired edit. Jennifer Hamilton, from Berkeley, works on solving one of the major hurdles of CRISPR-based therapies: delivering the genome editor to the desired cells. Cameron Myhrvold, has since worked at the Broad Institute on developing CRISPR-based diagnostics such as CARMEN and is about to start his own lab at Princeton.

CRISPR goes graphic

No wonder “Editing Humanity” by Kevin Davies is good reading. The executive editor of The CRISPR Journal (and the founding editor of Nature Genetics) is really in a great position to tell the CRISPR story so far. But the book deserves praise also for its aesthetic qualities, i.e., pictures and graphics. I’m totally in love with the typographical character marking the start of paragraphs – there is a sign representing Cas9 in place of the conventional pilcrow ¬∂.