CRISPR weekly picks

read-the-newsDoudna meets GSK: University of California CRISPR researchers form drug discovery alliance with pharma giant (source Science)
From transposons to gene therapy: Hijack of CRISPR defences by selfish genes holds clinical promise, according to Fyodor Urnov (Nature News&Views)
Disaster waiting to happen: Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies (Nature’s editorial and news)

CRISPR news: the good, the bad and the ugly

read-the-newsHistory in the making: student experiment edits DNA with CRISPR technology in space (Iss national lab blog)

Emails reveal that a facility in Dubai and others have asked geneticist He Jiankui for help in gene-editing embryos (The Scientist)

New worries about CRISPR babies: gene edits might have shortened their life expectancy (Nature)

Edited shells turn left

snail crispr cover

Most snails live in right-coiled shells, and the general rarity of sinistral gastropods has long attracted comment and wonder, according to the late Stephen Jay Gould. “Aristotle declared them impossible, but d’ Argentville called them uniques, while Geoffroy dubbed them nonpareilles. Since no one has ever developed an even vaguely plausible argument for dextral advantage, the overwhelming predominance of right-handed coiling among gastropods has been a persistent puzzle.” Continue reading

Climate, biotech and biases

GMO-climate-changeCRISPR gets a mention in the latest IPCC report as a potentially useful tool to cope with climate change. However, some people believe that biotech crops are safe and that climate change is not real (let’s call them libertarian capitalists, for convenience). Many ecological activists conversely think that genetically modified plants are evil and global warming threatens life on the planet. These stances could not be more different, yet they have something in common: they are both half right and half wrong. They are both examples of “selective science denial.” Continue reading

Neutralizing cryptic mutations in plant breeding

We talk of cryptic mutations when genes are changed in a way that remains hidden until they interact with other mutations. As a result, combining beneficial traits can have negative consequences hindering agricultural production (watch this video from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on unexpected negative interactions). Classic breeders have been dealing with this problem for decades, but researchers from CSHL are finally working on a solution suitable for the genomic era. Zach Lippman and colleagues have studied one infamous cryptic mutation affecting a tomato variety developed by the Campbell Soup Company in the 1960s and discuss an anti-negative-interaction strategy for the future. Please see their paper in Nature Plants and watch the video below offering a cautionary tale for crop gene editing.