Navigation Links
Powerful tool for genetic engineering

This news release is available in German.

Viruses cannot only cause illnesses in humans, they also infect bacteria. Those protect themselves with a kind of 'immune system' which simply put consists of specific sequences in the genetic material of the bacteria and a suitable enzyme. It detects foreign DNA, which may originate from a virus, cuts it up and thus makes the invaders harmless. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig have now shown that the dual-RNA guided enzyme Cas9 which is involved in the process has developed independently in various strains of bacteria. This enhances the potential of exploiting the bacterial immune system for genome engineering.

Even though it has only been discovered in recent years the immune system with the cryptic name 'CRISPR-Cas' has been attracting attention of geneticists and biotechnologists as it is a promising tool for genetic engineering. CRISPR is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats, whereas Cas simply stands for the CRISPR-associated protein. Throughout evolution, this molecule has developed independently in numerous strains of bacteria. This is now shown by Prof Emmanuelle Charpentier and her colleagues at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) who published their finding in the international open access journal Nucleic Acids Research.

The CRISPR-Cas-system is not only valuable for bacteria but also for working in the laboratory. It detects a specific sequence of letters in the genetic code and cuts the DNA at this point. Thus, scientists can either remove or add genes at the interface. By this, for instance, plants can be cultivated which are resistant against vermins or fungi. Existing technologies doing the same thing are often expensive, time consuming or less accurate. In contrast to them the new method is faster, more precise and cheaper, as fewer components are needed and it can target longer gene sequences.

Additionally, this makes the system more flexible, as small changes allow the technology to adapt to different applications. "The CRISPR-Cas-system is a very powerful tool for genetic engineering," says Emmanuelle Charpentier, who came to the HZI from Ume and was awarded with the renowned Humboldt Professorship in 2013. "We have analysed and compared the enzyme Cas9 and the dual-tracrRNAs-crRNAs that guide this enzyme site-specifically to the DNA in various strains of bacteria." Their findings allow them to classify the Cas9 proteins originating from different bacteria into groups. Within those the CRISPR-Cas systems are exchangeable which is not possible between different groups.

This allows for new ways of using the technology in the laboratory: The enzymes can be combined and thereby a variety of changes in the target-DNA can be made at once. Thus, a new therapy for genetic disorders caused by different mutations in the DNA of the patient could be on the horizon. Furthermore, the method could be used to fight the AIDS virus HIV which uses a receptor of the human immune cells to infect them. Using CRISPR-Cas, the gene for the receptor could be removed and the patients could become immune to the virus. However, it is still a long way until this aim will be reached.

Still those examples show the huge potential of the CRISPR-Cas technology. "Some of my colleagues already compare it to the PCR," says Charpentier. This method, developed in the 1980s, allows scientists to 'copy' nucleic acids and therefore to manifold small amounts of DNA to such an extent that they can be analysed biochemically. Without this ground-breaking technology a lot of experiments we consider to be routine would have never been possible.

Charpentier was not looking for new molecular methods in the first place. "Originally, we were looking for new targets for antibiotics. But we found something completely different," says Charpentier. This is not rare in science. In fact some of the most significant scientific discoveries have been made incidentally or accidentally.


Contact: Dr. Jan Grabowski
Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Related biology news :

1. Powerful sequencing technology decodes DNA folding pattern
2. New study discovers powerful function of single protein that controls neurotransmission
3. Powerful new approach to attack flu virus
4. UTMB researchers create powerful new method to analyze genetic data
5. Powerful class of antioxidants may be potent Parkinsons treatment
6. Black belts white matter shows how a powerful punch comes from the brain
7. Powerful tool to fight wildlife crime unveiled
8. Team solves birth and migration mysteries of cortexs powerful inhibitors, chandelier cells
9. UF researcher tests powerful new tool to advance ecology, conservation
10. Black piranha, megapiranha have most powerful bites of fish living or extinct, finds GW researcher
11. Powerful enzymes create ethanol from agricultural harvest waste
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Powerful tool for genetic engineering
(Date:11/18/2015)... 2015 --> ... market report titled  Gesture Recognition Market - Global Industry ... 2021. According to the report, the global gesture recognition market was valued ... reach US$29.1 bn by 2021, at a CAGR of ... America dominated the global gesture recognition market ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015 Pressure BioSciences, Inc. ... the development and sale of broadly enabling, pressure cycling ... sciences industry, today announced it has received gross proceeds ... million Private Placement (the "Offering"), increasing the total amount ... or more additional closings are expected in the near ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... 2015   Growing need for low-cost, easy ... been paving the way for use of biochemical ... analytes in clinical, agricultural, environmental, food and defense ... in medical applications, however, their adoption is increasing ... continuous emphasis on improving product quality and growing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... Global Biobanking Market 2016 - 2020 report analyzes ... maintaining integrity and quality in long-term samples, minimizing ... long-term cost-effectiveness. Automation minimizes manual errors such as ... technical efficiency. Further, it plays a vital role ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... BRUSSELS , November 25, 2015 ... in cat and human plaque and pave the way for ... health problems in cats     ... the most commonly diagnosed health problems in cats, yet relatively ... until now. Two collaborative studies have been conducted by researchers ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; TSX: ... prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the following ... received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC Phase ... the final interim efficacy and safety data ... men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant prostate ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... November 25, 2015 The ... is a professional and in-depth study on the ...      (Logo: ) , ... industry including definitions, classifications, applications and industry chain ... the international markets including development trends, competitive landscape ...
Breaking Biology Technology: