A new gene-editing technology that could potentially correct up to 89% of genetic defects, including those that cause diseases like sickle cell anemia.
It was called "prime editing" and was developed by researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The technique combines the CRISPR-Cas9 method with a different protein that can generate new DNA. Researchers can smoothly insert and delete parts of human cells. With this method, researchers say they hope to accurately and efficiently correct up to 89% of known disease-causing genetic variations. "The versatility of prime editing quickly became apparent as we developed this technology," said Andrew Anzalone, an author in the study. Researchers at the Broad Institute and elsewhere hope CRISPR could one day target a wide range of "bad" genes, potentially helping humans avoid obesity, Alzheimer's disease, genetic forms of deafness and more.
Earlier this year in March, a group of researchers including the scientist who pioneered and patented CRISPR technology called for a global moratorium on human germline editing, changes made to inherited DNA that can be passed on to the next generation. Experts in science, ethics and governance are making some efforts to ensure Crispr researchers heed societal concerns. An open-access online registry of Crispr clinical trials, recently proposed by the WHO, will hopefully promote a more open and transparent process.