RNA moments

Soon after co-discovering the double helix, Francis Crick coined the term “central dogma of biology” to illustrate the flow of genetic information within biological systems. The basic idea is simple: DNA is the king of the cell, proteins are its major workforce, and RNA is a sort of a middle manager. He later admitted that dogma was a poor word choice for a rule that has exceptions. Indeed, he became one of the proponents of the RNA world hypothesis, where RNA is the primordial substance in the evolutionary history of life on Earth. We can only guess what the great British scientist might say about RNA taking the stage today.

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Field of CRISPR dreams in Italy

You may have heard of the recent European Commission report on the New Genomics Techniques. But you probably don’t know how member states answered the related questionnaire. ““Could NGT-related research bring opportunities/benefits to science, to society and to the agri-food, medicinal or industrial sector?”. This and more in my news feature for Nature Italy.

Organoids & CRISPR in the toolbox of virologists


Human gut organoids infected with SARS-CoV-2 (Credit: Joep Beumer/Hubrecht Institute)

“Virologists have infected millions of miniature organs with SARS-CoV-2, to learn how the virus wreaks havoc and how to stop it,” writes Smriti Mallapaty in the latest issue of Nature. In one study, published in Science Immunology in 2020, researchers used CRISPR in gut organoids to identify two proteins (TMPRSS2 and TMPRSS4) that facilitate the virus entry into human cells, together with the ACE2 receptor. “Other labs are knocking out ACE2 entirely, to see whether the virus can still get in”. Here the full text of the news feature.

Arigatò CRISPR

I’m not sure this video is an effective communication strategy, maybe because I’m Italian (and I have no high blood pressure problems). Anyway, edited seedlings freely distributed to over 5000 home gardeners in Japan is great news!
Want to learn more about Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomatoes? Read the 2017 paper by Hiroshi Ezura and colleagues in Scientific Reports and the FAQ page on the Sanatech Seed website.

Nobel & Nobel – out of the ivory tower

Frances Arnold (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2018 for the directed evolution of enzymes) and Jennifer Doudna (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2020 for the invention of CRISPR)

They are two of only seven women who have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. At the Spark 2021 conference, they chatted about ethics, being women in science, the future of research, and much more. Frances Arnold was the interviewer and Jennifer Doudna the interviewee. The following is an extract of their conversation, dealing with the challenge of starting companies while running a top academic lab.

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CRISPR digital folklore

If you think science is boring, think again. The American cartoonist Randall Munroe drew a webcomic called Types of scientific paper and several scientists jumped on the bandwagon adapting the idea to their field. Here are “Types of genome editing paper” and “Types of CRISPR paper”. You can find more on Twitter (Types of bioethics/chemical biology/plant science/…).

Toward an NIH-validated CRISPR toolkit

The Somatic Cell Genome Editing (SCGE) Consortium is working to accelerate the development of better methods of editing. Seventy-two principal investigators from 38 institutions are pursuing 45 distinct but well-integrated projects, funded by the US National Institutes of Health with US$190 million over 6 years. A perspective published in Nature details their plans:

“New genome editors, delivery technologies and methods for tracking edited cells in vivo, as well as newly developed animal models and human biological systems, will be assembled—along with validated datasets—into an SCGE Toolkit, which will be disseminated widely to the biomedical research community. We visualize this toolkit—and the knowledge generated by its applications—as a means to accelerate the clinical development of new therapies for a wide range of conditions”.