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NmeCas9 Can Perform CRISPR Cutting on Both RNA And DNA

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February 21, 2018

NmeCas9 Can Perform CRISPR Cutting on Both RNA And DNA

CRISPR-Cas9 works through the combined action of the Cas9 protein, which cuts DNA, and a short guiding RNA (sgRNA), which tells Cas9 where to make the cut. Together, these two molecules allow virtually any gene in the genome to be targeted for editing. The greater challenge, though, is finding a way to make specific changes to a gene once it has been targeted.

The biochemical study published in the journal Molecular Cell shows real promise for a new approach using a protein known as NmeCas9. This derived from Neisseria meningitidis, the bacteria that cause some of the most severe and deadly cases of meningitis each year.

This protein is among some of the first few Cas9 proteins to work on both types of genetic material without artificial helper components. Right now, the team is working to test the tool in living bacteria cells to see if NmeCas9 is able to achieve the same effect that they saw in test tubes. They hope to eventually progress to human cells. If it proves to work, it could help expand the role of CRISPR in studying, and perhaps even intervene in many diseases.

The new technique hopes to produce a pair of universal genetic scissors, and because NmeCas9 is a much smaller protein than other Cas9 proteins used in CRISPR editing, the researchers believe it will be more useful.

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