Adding the RNA string to the CRISPR bow

zhang

So far we have learned that CRISPR may turn a faulty gene off by cutting and mutating its sequence. But what if we want to proceed more cautiously and avoid permanent changes to the genome? We could leave the target gene intact but ineffective, by intercepting and destroying the RNA messages with which it gives the wrong orders to the diseased cells. In this way it would be easier to go back if necessary. The good news is that CRISPR is a jack-of-all-trades, well-suited for the task, and the new approach (call it RNA targeting with CRISPR) is going to help to study human biology and diseases. One of the technique pioneer, Feng Zhang, has demonstrated in Nature last week that it can efficiently target RNA in mammalian cells (and also plants), equalizing and even surpassing the performance of the current tool of choice for RNA knockdown (RNA interference). In short, besides advancing its career as DNA editor, CRISPR has also found a second job in the RNA business. Continue reading

CRISPR in RNA Wonderland

doudna_crispr_wide-cb9478286d39615ed64291ea95d4cfe022596aa2-s900-c85This week our journey among leading labs takes us to meet a pioneer of gene silencing. Pino Macino contributed to the birth of RNA interference, a field awarded a Nobel prize in 2006, and teaches cell biology at Sapienza University of Rome.  He thinks CRISPR is a great leap forward in understanding the function of genes. Continue reading