New gene-editing tool is more accurate than CRISPR


Scientists at the University of Sydney have developed a gene editing tool with greater accuracy and flexibility than CRISPR.

SeekRNA uses a programmable ribonucleic acid (RNA) strand that can directly identify sites for insertion in genetic sequences, simplifying the editing process and reducing errors.

The new gene-editing tool is being developed by a team led by Dr Sandro Ataide in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“We are tremendously excited by the potential for this technology. SeekRNA’s ability to target selection with precision and flexibility sets the stage for a new era of genetic engineering, surpassing the limitations of current technologies,” Dr Ataide said.

“With CRISPR you need extra components to have a ‘cut-and-paste tool’, whereas the promise of seekRNA is that it is a stand-alone ‘cut-and-paste tool’ with higher accuracy that can deliver a wide range of DNA sequences.”

CRISPR relies on creating a break in both strands of target DNA, the double-helix genetic code of life, and needs other proteins or the DNA repair machinery to insert the new DNA sequence. This can introduce errors.

Dr Ataide added: “SeekRNA can precisely cleave the target site and insert the new DNA sequence without the use of any other proteins. This allows for a much cleaner editing tool with higher accuracy and fewer errors.”

High target specificity

SeekRNA is derived from a family of naturally occurring insertion sequences known as IS1111 and IS110, discovered in bacteria and archaea (cells without a nucleus). Most insertion sequence proteins exhibit little or no target selectivity, however, these families exhibit high target specificity.

Using the accuracy from this insertion sequence family, seekRNA can be modified to any genomic sequence and insert the new DNA in a precise orientation.

An advantage of the system is that it can be applied using only a single protein of modest size plus a short seekRNA strand, to efficiently move genetic cargo. SeekRNA is made up of a small protein of 350 amino acids and an RNA strand of between 70 and 100 nucleotides.

Another point of differentiation is this technology’s ability to insert DNA sequences in the desired location by itself, a feat not possible with many current editing tools.

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

Image shows: Research lead Dr Sandro Ataide (left) and first author Rezwan Siddiquee with Caitlin McCormack (right). (C) Fiona Wolf-USYD

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