George Church wants to use the Woolly Mammoth to combat climate change

NBC MACH, 9 February 2017, http://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/scientist-aims-resurrect-woolly-mammoth-surprising-reason-n718616

Harvard professor George Church is attempting to use CRISPR/Cas technology to resurrect the woolly mammoth by modifying the Asian elephant.  Church believes that by having cold-resistant elephants or mammoths living in the tundra, the animals will punch down the snow allowing cold air to come in and freeze the snow pack.  In the summertime they would knock down trees allowing the grasses to grow thus preventing the release of carbon from the tundra.

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Harnessing nanochemistry to deliver CRISPR/Cas9

Phys.org, 7 February 2017, https://phys.org/news/2017-02-hurdles-crispr-gene-treatment.html

While CRISPR/Ca9 gene editing is much more efficient than previous gene editing technologies, delivery of the reagents to cells still poses a challenge to researchers. Now researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a system published in ACS Nano (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28129503) that uses nanoparticles to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 across the cell membrane and nuclear envelope.    To achieve this, the researchers modified Cas9 to interact with the nanoparticles.  This modified Cas9, coined Cas9En, can be delivered into 90% of cells grown in culture with an editing efficiency of ~30%.

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The CRISPR patent battle spans two continents

Isobel Finnie and Catherine Williamson, GEN Exclusives, 6 February 2017, http://www.genengnews.com/gen-exclusives/crispr-patent-wars/77900842

The CRISPR/Cas9 patent battle has been closely watched in the United States with a decision expected in the next few months. Less attention has been paid to the ongoing European patent battle.  Like in the US, both UC-Berkeley and The Broad Institute have submitted competing patent applications.  Currently the Broad Institute has received all granted patents over UC-Berkeley, however the Broad is facing challenges to these decisions.

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Patent licenses used to address ethics concerns

Guerrini, C. J. et. al. (2017) Nature Biotechnology. 35:22-24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28072792

While countries and institutions can be slow to adapt to new ethics concerns, patent holders have the ability to restrict use on new technology.  The Broad Institute has adopted this method to control uses of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in licenses with both Monsanto and Editas Medicine.  Similarly, the creator of the CRISPR/Cas gene drive plans to use his patent to force full disclosure of methods and results from both academics and industry.  While the use of patents to limit ethics concerns is not without problems, it can allow time for larger ethics structures to be implemented.

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Novozymes signs agreement for NgAgo

David Cyranoski, Nature News, 23 January 2017, http://www.nature.com/news/biotech-firm-backs-controversial-crispr-challenger-1.21343

NgAgo was initially reported as a DNA-guided, DNA-targeting enzyme similar to the CRISPR/Cas system. However, many scientists have questioned the validity of the initial study.  Despite these questions, Novozymes has signed an agreement with the Chinese university that developed NgAgo to explore its uses.  Novozymes spokesperson Dongyi Chen states that Novozymes has “tested the technology and seen indications that it might be useful, but it is very early in the development.”

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Development of hornless dairy cows

Science Friday, 14 October 2016, http://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/scientists-develop-a-hornless-cow-through-gene-editing/

While angus cattle have become naturally hornless due to a genetic mutation, high-producing dairy Holstein cows have kept their horns, leading ranchers to dehorn dairy cows by burning off the developing horn buds.  Science Friday takes a look at how CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can be used to create the angus mutation in Holstein cows, eliminating horn development.

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CRISPR corrects X-linked granulomatous disease in a mouse model

Andrew Han, GenomeWeb, https://www.genomeweb.com/gene-silencinggene-editing/crispr-corrects-genetic-immunodeficiency-blood-stem-cells

In a new article published in the journal Science Translational Medicine (http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/372/eaah3480), researchers used CRISPR to correct a mutation in NOX2 that causes X-linked granulomatous disease ex vivo, followed by implantation into a mouse model.  Mice implanted with the edited cells demonstrated functional NOX2 protein for up to 5 months, demonstrating the potential CRISPR has in treating genetic disorders.

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The origin of CRISPR is shrouded in mystery

Heidi Ledford, Nature News, 12 January 2017, http://www.nature.com/news/five-big-mysteries-about-crispr-s-origins-1.21294

While the CRISPR system is being extensively studied, most of the work is focused on how to adapt the components for gene editing of unrelated organisms. Fundamental questions regarding the biology of CRISPR remain.  This article from Nature News dives into five questions relating to the origin of CRISPR, how the system works, possible additional functions of the CRISPR system, and why only certain microbes have a CRISPR locus.

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A banquet of gene editing dishes

Kenneth Chang, The New York Times, 09 January 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/science/genetically-edited-foods-crispr.html

With the Department of Agriculture not regulating gene edited crops that lack foreign genes from plant pests, CRISPR modified produce may be in grocery stores in a few short years. However, public concerns about safety linger.  In an attempt to educate the public on the benefits and possibilities of gene edited crops, Cellectis hosted a dinner in New York City where the food served contained CRISPR edited crops.  Attendees included professors, journalists and celebrities.

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Eliminating Lyme Disease from Nantucket Island

Michael Specter, The New Yorker, 2 January 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/02/rewriting-the-code-of-life

Kevin Esvelt of MIT is attempting to eliminate Lyme disease by releasing genetically modified mice onto Nantucket Island and in the process he is releasing all data related to his CRISPR experiments, bucking the trend of secrecy in science.  Michael Specter of the New Yorker interviewed Esvelt to understand how the science works and how Esvelt is engaging the community.

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