Mar 11, 2022

CRISPR On-Off Switch Will Help Unlock the Secrets of Our Immune System

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, life extension

Can we turn up—or dial down—their fervor by tweaking their genes?

Enter a new kind of CRISPR. Known mostly as a multi-tool to cut, snip, edit, or otherwise kneecap an existing gene, this version—dubbed CRISPRa—forcibly turns genes on. Optimized by scientists at Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco, the tool is counterbalanced by CRISPRi—“i” for “interference,” which, you guessed it, interferes with the gene’s expression.

Though previously used in immortal cells grown in labs, this is the first time these CRISPR tools are rejiggered for cells extracted from our bodies. Together, the tools simultaneously screened nearly 20,000 genes in T cells isolated from humans, building a massive genetic translator—from genes to function—that maps how individual genes influence T cells.

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