Alternative CRISPR System Could Improve Genome Editing

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Smaller enzyme may make process simpler and more exact.

Heidi Ledford

The CRISPR/Cas9 technique is revolutionizing genetic research: scientists have already used it to engineer crops, livestock and even human embryos, and it may one day yield new ways to treat disease.

But now one of the technique’s pioneers thinks that he has found a way to make CRISPR even simpler and more precise. In a paper published in Cell on 25 September, a team led by synthetic biologist Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reports the discovery of a protein1 called Cpf1 that may overcome one of CRISPR/Cas9’s few limitations; although the system works well for disabling genes, it is often difficult to truly edit them by replacing one DNA sequence with another.

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