'Bionanotechnology from Theory to Practice' is a short online, course providing an interdisciplinary and up-to-date overview of the rapidly developing area of bionanotechnology
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_96258

Real-time film shows CRISPR in action

20 November 2017
Appeared in BioNews 927

For the first time ever, researchers have been able to film, in real-time, the activity of the CRISPR technique on a strand of DNA.

The short video, made by a team of researchers led by Professor Osamu Nureki at the University of Tokyo, and published in Nature Communications, records the CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme physically cutting the strand of DNA with which it interacts.

Although this does not show anything new about the behaviour of CRISPR, it confirms what scientists had previously hypothesised about the mode of action of CRISPR/Cas9 from other observations, and is the first 'live-action' demonstration of this technology.

The video was originally presented in June at a CRISPR conference held in Big Sky, Montana. Speaking to The Atlantic, Dr Sam Sternberg – who works with CRISPR and attended the conference, but was not associated with the project – emphasised the reaction of the scientific audience to the novel video clip, saying 'I was sitting in the front, and I just heard this gasp from everyone behind me'.

Professor Nureki and colleagues made the video using a technique known as atomic-force microscopy. This involves drawing a minuscule needle over the surface of the molecules that the researchers are imaging, with a laser simultaneously detecting changes in the light being deflected from the needle. By using a high-speed version of this technology, which scans very quickly, the team were able to capture the dynamic process of CRISPR and DNA interaction in real-time.

Importantly, although the video shows CRISPR in action, it does not show genome editing in a living cell: the DNA sequence that was cut is not part of an organism's complete genome, but a short selected sequence, purified and attached to a solid surface. In addition, the researchers did not observe the DNA sequence being repaired – so it does not give a complete view of the genome editing process.

Nonetheless, many believe this type of representation makes molecular biology more accessible – and exciting – to a wider audience. 'The result is fairly easy to understand,' said Dr Hiroshi Nishimasu, a study co-author, also at the University of Tokyo. 'People say "Wow!" It's very simple.'

The latest developments in CRISPR and genome editing will be discussed at the session 'What Next for Genome Editing? Politics and the Public', at the Progress Educational Trust's upcoming public conference 'Crossing Frontiers: Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction'.

The conference is taking place in London on Friday 8 December 2017. Full details - including sessions, speakers and how to book your place - can be found here.

An Astonishing Video Shows CRISPR Editing DNA in Real Time
The Atlantic |  13 November 2017
Real-space and real-time dynamics of CRISPR-Cas9 visualized by high-speed atomic force microscopy
Nature Communications |  10 November 2017
Watch CRISPR Edit DNA in Real Time
Futurism |  15 November 2017
22 January 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
Scientists have taken the most detailed images yet of an enzyme working its way along a strand of DNA, revealing how it reads the genetic code...
15 January 2018 - by Eleanor Taylor 
The ever-expanding limits of human reproduction are creating complex ethical and political challenges. One topic that has generated much contention is the possibility of editing the genome of human embryos...
11 December 2017 - by Isobel Steer 
Scientists in California have used a modified form of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing approach to epigenetically treat diabetes, kidney disease and muscular dystrophy in mice...
27 November 2017 - by Dr Lea Goetz 
The Darwin lecture held at the UK's Royal Society of Medicine in London, and jointly organised with the Linnean Society, gives an annual look at topics in science and medicine....
30 October 2017 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Scientists have developed the genome editing technique known as 'base editing' to turn adenine-thymine base pairs back to guanine-cytosine...
9 October 2017 - by Emma Laycock 
Scientists have repaired the faulty gene in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy by using gold nanoparticles to deliver the genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9...
2 October 2017 - by Sandy Starr 
What do patients and laypeople think and know about genome editing and its implications? What are the best ways for experts and others to discuss genome editing in public, so as to improve public understanding and avoid confusion? The Progress Educational Trust has set out to answer these questions, with its 'Basic Understanding of Genome Editing' project....
17 July 2017 - by Dr Lea Goetz 
Scientists have used the CRISPR/Cas system to encode a film in the genomes of living bacteria...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.