New DNA shredder hopes to revolutionize disease research

Researchers have developed a new tool for editing genes that is being compared to a "DNA shredder" called CRISPR / Cas3, capable of editing long sequences of DNA with programmable alterations.

Presenting CRISPR / Cas3

Geneticists at the University of Michigan (UM) and Cornell University have developed a new DNA editing tool that can be programmed to edit stretches of DNA longer than is currently possible by editing the CRISPR / Cas9 gene.


Called CRISPR / Cas3, this new system has the potential to revolutionize disease research, according to Yan Zhang, Ph.D. from UM, badistant professor of biological chemistry who led the research.

"Cas9 is a molecular scissor that goes where you want it and cuts once," Zhang said. "But Cas3 goes where you want it, travels along the chromosome and makes a spectrum of eliminations tens of kilobases, which could make it a powerful screening tool to determine which large areas of DNA are most important for a disease in particular".

The potential lies in the ability of researchers to experiment on long stretches of DNA without knowing exactly which gene in the entire genome they need to attack. With CRISPR / Cas3, they could simply alter entire stretches of DNA and see what happens.

How CRISPR / Cas3 works

Known as a "crusher", the comparison is adequate. Unlike the CRISPR / Cas9 scissor feature, CRISPR / Cas3 moves along the entire designated length of DNA and "destroys" the underlying material.

Both the CRISPR-Cas-9 and CRISPR / Cas3 systems are taken from bacteria, but the Cas3 variety uses a CRISPR Type I, which is more common in bacteria than the CRISPR Type II used in Cas9. According to UM, who has co-funded the technique with Cornell University, "CRISPR type I has never been used in any eukaryotic cell and uses a riboprotein complex known as Cascade to search for its target and an enzyme called Cas3 to destroy DNA. "

The research was published in Molecular cell.

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