WE ALL DREAM TO SPLICE THE GENES
The CRISPR//Cas9 gene editing tool has quickly earned a reputation as a revolutionary technology, and its merits support the clout. This year has, in fact, seen so many CRISPR-related breakthroughs that it’s worthwhile to take a step back and take in all of the many accomplishments.
1. This week, circulating reports about the successful application of gene-editing human embryos in the US were confirmed by a research paper published in Nature. The researchers “corrected” one-cell embryo DNA to remove the MYBPC3 gene — known to cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart disease that affects 1 in 500 people.
2. This year, scientists successfully used gene editing to completely extract HIV from a living organism, with repeated success across three different animal models. In addition to the complete removal of the virus DNA, the team also prevented the progress of acute latent infection.
3. Semi-synthetic organisms were developed by breeding E.coli bacteria with an anomalous six-letter genetic code, instead of the normal four-base sequence. Additional gene editing was implemented to ensure that the new DNA molecules were not identified as an invasive presence.
4. The CRISPR method successfully targeted the “command center” of cancer — called the hybrid fusion — which leads to abnormal tumor growths. A “cut-and-paste” method allowed the creation of a cancer-annihilating gene that shrinks tumors in mice carrying human prostate and liver cancer cells.
5. Scientists also slowed the growth of cancerous cells, by targeting Tudor-SN, a key protein in cell division. It’s expected that this technique could also slow the growth of fast-growing cells.
6. Gene editing techniques have also made superbugs kill themselves. By adding antibiotic resistant gene sequences into bacteriophage viruses, self-destructive mechanisms are triggered which protect bacteria.
7. Gene editing may even make mosquito-born diseases an extinct phenomenon. By hacking fertility genes, scientists have gained the ability to limit the spread of mosquitoes — a success they credit to CRISPR’s ability to make multiple genetic code changes simultaneously.
8. Using CRISPR, researchers have edited out Huntington’s disease from mice, pushing the symptomatic progression of the condition into reverse. Experts expect this promising technique to be applied to humans in the near future.
9. Outside of the medical field, CRISPR might also provide a more abundant and sustainable biofuel. By connecting several gene-editing tools, scientists engineered algae that produce twice the biofuel material as wild (or “natural”) counterparts.
10. Very recently, the first-ever “molecular recorder” was developed — a gene editing process that encodes a film directly into DNA code — and with this ability, scientists embedded information into an E.coli genome.
11. Last but not least, and on the macro-scale, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) invested $65 million in a project called “safe genes,”designed to improve the accuracy and safety of CRISPR editing techniques. In addition to serving the public interest of avoiding accidental or intentional (cue ominous music) misuse, the seven research teams will remove engineered genes from environments to return them to baseline “natural” levels.
UC Riverside-led Team Wins $14.9 Million to Battle Disease-carrying Mosquitoes
"DARPA award is the largest ever for a UCR researcher"
DARPA funds UCSD gene drive research against mosquito-borne diseases
Building the Safe Genes Toolkit
Small Pest, Big Battle
UC San Diego Researchers Join $14.9 Million Fight Against Disease-transmitting Mosquitoes
Defense department pours $65 million into making CRISPR safer
How will we keep controversial gene drive technology in check?http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/how-will-we-keep-controversial-gene-drive-technology-check
DARPA Awards $65M to Improve Gene-Editing Safety, Accuracy
Zika, dengue, yellow fever: UC Riverside researcher gets $14.9 million to thwart disease-carrying mosquitoes
UC Davis Joins DARPA-funded “Safe Genes” Program
UC San Diego researchers selected for DARPA project against mosquito-borne diseaseshttps:
UC Zika research aims to ‘collapse’ mosquito populations
Importantly these guidelines may be adopted in the future to help provide information to stakeholders regarding regulatory oversight of articles, including substances, for use in or on mosquitoes (e.g. genetically modified mosquitoes or perhaps even gene drives).
Click here for a pdf of the document.
"Examples of New Animal Drugs (regulated by FDA)
Dr. Akbari Quoted
"This year, his advocacy has begun to bear fruit. Researchers and policymakers worldwide have been discussing the technology, and a report from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine urged that gene-drive research proceed, but cautiously. Omar Akbari, who studies gene drives at the University of California, Riverside, believes Esvelt’s outreach has focused public attention — and attracted funding — for a nascent technology at just the right time. “I attribute that to Kevin,” says Akbari. “It’s difficult for a scientist to do what he’s done.”
Nova Next - For Gene Drives, Resistance May Be Inevitable. pdf
Professor Akbari said this about how the severity of the effect of resistance in gene drive is dependent on the ultimate goal:
"If you’re able to block all disease [Dengue] transmission for a few weeks, that could essentially eliminate the virus. So you don’t need it to last indefinitely [versus if the goal was to create a lasting alteration for a disease like Zika]. "
The best way to get rid of mosquitoes? Turn them all into males. pdf
www.wsj.com/articles/mosquitoes-are-deadly-so-why-not-kill-them-all-1472827158Mosquitoes Are Deadly, So Why Not Kill Them All? pdf
Zika virus’s spread adds urgency to gene editing that could allow scientists to program the insects to die off, but the idea is fraught with quandaries.
"Prof. Akbari at UC Riverside is using Crispr/Cas9 to design a gene-drive system that would inactivate a fertility gene in female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and then pass on the inactivated gene. That would sterilize future generations of females.
He hopes to test the system within the next several months. “We’re working as fast as we can,” Prof. Akbari says."
www.deutschlandfunk.de/die-gen-bombe-kettenreaktion-gegen-zika-malaria-und-co.740.de.html?dram:article_id=363534 - pdf; Translated -pdf; mp3
"Omar Akbari, University of California Riverside: "If you want to destroy a biological kind in the world, for example, Aedes aegypti, the Zika supercarrier, this is now possible A new technique turns off vital genes of the mosquito and spreads itself in a way. . chain reaction Sometime breaks the whole population together - and you have eradicated this way."
San Diego Union Tribune. A path forward for gene drive technologies. pdf
"UC Riverside’s Akbari put in a plug for more research dollars in Southern California to develop and test gene drive technologies.“Developing these systems takes a lot of effort and time and they are very complex,” Akbari said. “So funding the right groups would be important, and opening up larger collaborative efforts.
“In California we have a pretty good team of people working on this goal. We have Bruce Hay at Caltech, Tony James at UC Irvine, Ethan Bier, and me. We’re all really close to each other, about an hour’s drive of each lab. So I think having a collaborative grant where we could come together and work on these technologies would be really nice, and we don’t have that yet.”
Nova Next. Editing Out Pesticides. pdf
“We’re taking multiple approaches. The ideal approach would be to eradicate the pest—develop a catalytic gene drive system that you could release into a population that can spread invasively,” says Omar Akbari, a molecular biologist at UC Riverside. “And as it spreads, the population declines without the use of insecticides.”
UCR Today. Rio Olympics from A to Z. pdf
Professor Akbari said this about Zika and the Olympics:
“It is estimated that 1/2 million visitors will travel to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, and it is important that these travelers exercise extreme caution as related to Zika. In Brazil, Zika still poses a significant threat with a total of 166,000 suspected cases, and counting, thus far. As recommended by the CDC, pregnant women should avoid the games completely, and individuals with pregnant partners should abstain from sexual contact for the duration of the pregnancy, and upon returning home from the games. In addition, all visitors should take the necessary steps to prevent mosquito bites, both during the games and for several weeks after returning home.”
Geneticexperts.org. NAS report on gene drives recommends field trials but not environmental release.
Geneticexperts.org. NAS report on gene drives recommends field trials but not environmental release. pdf
Professor Akbari said this about gene drive recommendations:
Dr. Omar Akbari, Assistant Professor of Entomology, University of California, Riverside (webpage):
Expertise: Genetics and physiology of mosquitoes, genetic control technologies for limiting mosquito-borne diseases
“The NAS report does a commendable job at overviewing the technologies and identifying the knowledge gaps and barriers that will be important to address before any gene drive approach can be tested and utilized in the environment.
“As they conclude, and I agree, the potential applications of gene drives are quite exciting, however, the science is still premature and there are far too many unanswered questions to justify the release of a gene drive beyond the laboratory or contained field trials. Therefore, the committee urges caution until we understand better the ethical, regulatory, scientific, social and environmental consequences of unleashing gene drive containing organisms freely into the environment.
“To address these issues, the committee recommends that phased field testing, robust ecological risk assessments, and public engagement will be essential components for moving any gene drive from the laboratory to the field, and I generally agree with these recommendations. The committee also points out that regulation of gene drives will likely fall under the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. However, the federal agencies included in the current Coordinated Framework (FDA, USDA, EPA), do not have clear lines of authority over the potential applications of gene drive research.
“This issue of who will govern a technology that has no boundaries and can persist in the environment long-term will be very important address as this technology develops further in various species. Overall, this is a highly complex issue and the committee’s recommendations for a cautionary, collaborative, and multi-disciplinary, approach to future research and governance of gene drives is a good one.”
The Huffington Post. What Parents And Pregnant Women Need To Know About Zika Protection. pdf
Professor Akbari on Deet being the most effective repellent for mosquitoes bites:
"DEET is the oldest option. It was produced by the military and has been on the market since the gold standard...It has gone through the most tests."
UCR Today. Exploiting Male-Killing Bacteria to Control Insects. pdf
Professor Akbari on using male-killing bacteria to control insects:
“Understanding the molecular mechanisms of how this bacterium can bias sex ratios of insects could have downstream implications in other insects and these mechanisms could potentially be exploited to control insect species in the future.”