For the first time, CRISPR gene-editing has been used on squid

For the first time, the new CRISPR gene editing method has been used on Squid, a milestone in the scientific study of these creatures – and opening up many new areas of potential research.

CRISPR enables very precise, rapid and low-cost DNA editing. Keep simple, the simple molecular functioning of the method is often described as something that allows us to ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ genes; In humans it promises to give us a way to deal with the disease and kill superbugs on a genetic level.

CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing was used in this case Dorautithis mealy (Longfin inshore squid) to inactivate a pigmentation gene, by shutting down pigmentation is usually found as a chromatophorus in squid eye and inside specialized skin cells.

“This is an important first step toward the ability of genes – and knockdowns – in cephalopods to address a host of biological questions,” says Joshua Rosenthal, a marine biologist at the University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).

CRISPR-Cas9 Squid Hatchling. (Karen Crawford)

Longfin inshore squid is of great interest to scientists, and to studies Dorautithis mealy Going back to the 1950s has helped to make a significant contribution to the field of neuroscience – including the first description of nerve impulses.

Cephalopods (squid, octopus and cuttlefish) have larger brains than all other invertebrates, with the ability to retrieve their genetic information, and some rather amazing party tricks (such as being able to change colors immediately).

Being able to edit genes in these creatures is a major new development, and one that could make squid include genetic research in the category of model organisms, such as fruit flies and zebrafish. Development, medicine, robotics, materials and even the study of artificial intelligence can all benefit.

“They have developed these big brains and this behavioral sophistication completely independently,” Rosenthal told NPR. “It provides an opportunity to compare us with them and see which elements are common, and which elements are unique.”

What makes this new achievement a success is the delicate way in which CRISPR was to be applied: acquiring the hard outer layer of a single-celled squid embryo with micro-scissors and a quartz needle, and then heating it.

Squid 3Doryteuthis pealeii in water. (Roger Hanlon)

Editing time was critical, but after a lot of false starts (and broken needles) the team was able to develop embryos with less pigmented cells and light eyes.

It is hoped that because these squid specializes in editing their own genetic code, this research can extend our own techniques even further. The next step is to try the technique in small types of squid that are easy to lift (and study) in the laboratory.

In the future, this method will be largely useful to researchers testing the function of certain squid genes, and tracking genes that regulate neural activity in creatures – all options not previously available.

“Now we really have the ability to go and test a person’s genes,” MBL marine biologist Carrie Albertine told NPR.

“It’s something that honestly says, if you asked me five years ago if we could do it, I just pleaded and said, ‘I’m dreaming it. But, you know, I didn’t think. Possible. And so far we are here. ”

The research has been published in Current biology.