Uninformed pontification on IQ editing

According to his Twitter bio, Charles Murray is a “Husband, father, social scientist, writer, Madisonian. Or maybe right-wing ideologue, pseudoscientist, evil. Opinions differ.” You may remember him as the co-author of the controversial book “The Bell Curve” (1994), discussing purported connections between race and intelligence. The bad news is that he recently joined the CRISPR debate by tweeting “Gene editing to raise IQ will have a huge market”. The good news is that confutation is easy and a little irony is the best reply (check out Fyodor Urnov’s tweet in the gallery below).

Inside the CRISPR saga

What’s unique about this book are the insights into the relationships between the main characters of the CRISPR saga. The loyal friendship linking Jennifer Doudna and George Church. The growing distrust between Doudna and Zhang. Doudna’s sorrow that she and Charpentier have drifted apart, personally as well as scientifically. The last point is indeed a melancholic note in the Nobel-ending tale. Why did their friendship fall apart?

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Archealization by CRISPR

Credit Muotri Lab/UC San Diego

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.

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CRISPR walk-up music – the compilation

After reading about the 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards in the book by Kevin Davies, I rushed online to listen to the walk-up music chosen by the CRISPR pioneers as they head to the stage to accept their award. Then I cut and pasted their songs and dance moves. So enjoy Jennifer Doudna dancing On the sunny side of the street, Rodolphe Barrangou pirouetting at the rhythm of Happy, Philippe Horvath going wild with Mission Impossible. And guess which is the song selected by Emmanuelle Charpentier? No spoiler, but the lyrics added at the end truly suits the CRISPR technological (r)evolution!

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-based Covid tests: what’s going on?

Doudna’s creature (Mammoth Biosciences) and Zhang’s company (Sherlock Biosciences) are developing CRISPR-based coronavirus tests similar to a home pregnancy test: portable, cheap, fast, and simple. Both will be easily adapted to detect any new emerging virus. Both received emergency use authorizations in the US in the fall of 2020 and hope to enter the market by the end of 2021. According to this piece by Walter Isaacson, competition is hot but all the intellectual property questions have been put aside for common good.

Crispy weekend reads

This is an issue for all tastes and interests. Don’t miss (Broken) Promises of Sustainable Food and Agriculture through New Biotechnologies by Todd Kuiken, Rodolphe Barrangou and Khara Grieger; A Code of Ethics for Gene Drive Research by George Annas and other members of the Controlling and Countering Gene Editing in Mosquitoes research project funded by the DARPA Safe Genes program; The Cas9 Hammer and the Sickle by Fyodor Urnov.

TALEN vs CRISPR

Soon after the arrival of CRISPR, a report from Harvard compared the new gene-editing technique and its older sister side by side. As reported by Kevin Davies in the book “Editing Humanity,” CRISPR won convincingly, and this paper helped boost CRISPR’s popularity. This video shows that nowadays CRISPR is considered the best in terms of ease of design, ease of experimental setup, and flexibility. TALEN, however, is more precise. What about efficiency? Well, it depends. CRISPR works better in the less-tightly wound regions of the genome, but according to a recent Nature Communications paper, TALEN can access the heterochromatin region better than CRISPR. The study by Huimin Zhao and colleagues at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign adds to the evidence that the more (tools), the better.

CRISPR plants, climate change and the precautionary principle

This week’s suggested reading is the paper “EU policy must change to reflect the potential of gene editing for addressing climate change” by Sarah Garland published in Global Food Security. Garland’s article is a welcome addition to the debate and also a suggestion on how to get out with the impasse of the European Court of Justice ruling on genome editing. Here are a few excerpts:

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