CRISPR gene-editing activated by light

This CRISPR-Cas9 tool is light-activated — so much better than the typical virus carrier system.


NSFW    NANJING/XIAMEN, CHINA — Chinese scientists are using light as an alternative to viruses to deliver CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tools into target cells.

According to IEEE Spectrum, CRISPR-Cas9 is a genome editing tool that is used to cut and paste DNA sequences and modify gene function.

CRISPR-Cas9 is typically delivered to the nucleus of a particular cell via a virus carrier system. Though it is effective, using viruses runs the risk of provoking an immune response or initiating tumors.

Researchers from Nanjing University and Xiamen University have developed a light carrier system consisting of nanoparticles that absorb and convert low-energy near-infrared radiation to ultraviolet light.

NIR light can penetrate human tissue to reach the nanoparticles deep in the body, while UV can cut light-sensitive molecules to untether the CRISPR-Cas9.

To test the system, nanoparticles were injected directly into the tumors of mice. When researchers shone NIR toward the location of the growth, it was converted to UV, which then released the CRISPR package.

The gene-editing tool stopped a protein associated with cancer cells like it was programmed to, resulting in a reduction in tumor growth.

The research is published in Science Advances. According to author Yujun Song, the team is focused on nanomedicine and disease treatment. They hope to apply the tool not just to cancer, but also to Parkinson's and diabetes.
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