Plant species are threatened by pathogens and pests, and the climate crisis is making things worse. CRISPR could help address some forest health threats, by making trees more resilient. But intervening in a complex ecosystem is a big decision. What are the alternatives? What are the uncertainties? Let’s think about a specific example, the American chestnut, and watch this iBiology video.
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Koonin, CRISPR and the war
“Science in times of war: oppose Russian aggression but support Russian scientists” is the heartfelt article recently published by Eugene Koonin in EMBO Reports. Koonin is a leading evolutionary molecular biologist and a CRISPR pioneer. Born and raised in Moscow, he left the USSR a few weeks before it dissolved in 1991 and moved to the US where he works at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI-NIH).
He was elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA in 2016 and Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in 2019 but resigned from the second one at the end of February this year. You can read why in the excerpt below, and learn more about his outstanding contribution to science and the CRISPR field in this PNAS profile.Continue reading
Archealization by CRISPR
Alysson Muotri is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. His team is developing lentil-size, Neanderthalized mini-brains by using CRISPR + paleogenomics + organoids. After reading the paper published in Science last February, we asked him a few questions about the experiments of paleo-gene-editing he is doing at the Archealization Center.Continue reading
Crispy holidays, we’ll be back soon!
So many CRISPR books so little time
Rumors are spreading about upcoming CRISPR books by Walter Isaacson (best known for his biographies of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs) and other best-selling authors. In the meantime biotech-bibliophiles are enjoying the satirical side of cutting edge research with How to Build a Dragon or Die Trying. Continue reading
150 years after Mendel, say hello to CopyCat Mice
Do 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
From chili pepper to hot tomato?
Chili peppers have happily entered our kitchens with their capsaicinoid content, since Cristoforo Colombo brought then back from Central America. Capsicum species however are labour-intensive and difficult to grow. They are also notoriously recalcitrant to biotechnological intervention. Tomatoes are much handier in comparison. The Capsicum and Solanum clades split at least 19 Mya ago but comparative genomics has revealed that tomatoes retain all the necessary genes for pungency. Why not to harness CRISPR power to turn tomatoes into capsaicinoid biofactories then? Continue reading
CRISPR best and worst in 2018
CRISPR contributed to Science’s Breakthrough of the Year and was also nominated for the Breakdown category by the same journal. The second nomination was an easy guess: He Jiankui and its baby-editing claim were also mentioned in Nature’s 10 for 2018. Much more interesting is the decision to celebrate cell-barcoding, the CRISPR-based technique used to track embryo development in stunning detail and over time. Continue reading
How green is CRISPR future? The EU judgment is coming
Tomorrow, the European Court of Justice is set to pronounce a verdict on the legal status of organisms produced through mutagenesis. In January, the opinion of the Advocate General Michal Bobek was variously interpreted, but scientists are hopeful that the judgment of Case C 528/16 will help the European Commission to reasonably regulate new breeding technologies such as CRISPR. Continue reading