Genetic research still has very good years ahead. Harvard researchers have developed a genomic editing tool that could compete with CRISPR.
Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have designed a new genomic editing tool that could allow scientists to perform millions of genetic experiments simultaneously. This one was baptized the technique Retron Library Recombineering (RLR), it uses segments ofADN bacterial, retrospective, capable of producing single-stranded DNA fragments.
A new genomic editing tool developed by Harvard researchers
When it comes to genomic editing, CRISPR-Cas9 is probably the most popular technique today. This profoundly transformed the world of science a few years ago, offering researchers a tool to easily alter DNA sequences. This was more precise than previously available techniques and offered a wide variety of potential applications, including in the treatment of many diseases.
RLR could go even further than CRISPR-Cas9
However, this tool has some major limitations. For example, it is difficult to deliver CRISPR-Cas9 material in large quantities, which remains a concern for studies and other experiments, in particular. In addition, the technique used can be toxic to cells. The Cas9 enzyme – the molecular “scissors” that are responsible for cutting DNA strands – often also cuts where they shouldn’t.
CRISPR-Cas9 physically cuts DNA to incorporate the mutant sequence into its genome during the repair process. The retros, on the other hand, can introduce the mutant DNA strand into a replicating cell so that this strand is incorporated into the DNA of the daughter cells. In addition, the sequences of the retros can serve as “bar codes” or “name badges”, allowing scientists to track them individually in a set of bacteria. This means they can be used for genomic editing without damaging native DNA and for performing multiple experiments in a single large preparation.
Scientists at the Wyss Institute tested the RLR on E. coli bacteria and found that 90% of the population had incorporated the retrospective sequence after a few modifications. They were also able to prove the usefulness of this process in mass genetic experiments. During their testing, they were able to identify antibiotic resistance mutations in E. coli by sequencing retro barcodes rather than sequencing individual mutants, making the whole process much faster.
According to Max Schubert, one of the lead authors of the study, “RLR is a simpler and more flexible genomic editing tool that can be used for highly parallelized experiments. […] For a long time, CRISPR was considered simply a weirdness of bacteria, and figuring out how to harness it for genome engineering changed the world. The mirrors are another bacterial innovation that could also allow important breakthroughs. ”
However, there is still a lot of work to do before the RLR can be used on a large scale. In particular, it will be necessary to improve and standardize its publishing rates. The team is in any case convinced that this could “lead to exciting and unexpected innovations”.