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CRISPR-Cas Swiss scientists enhance efficiency of gene editing technique

Science lab

Gene editing has multiple applications in cellular research, plant breeding and cell replacement therapy.

(Keystone / Aleksandar Plavevski)

Swiss scientists have improved a widely-used genetic engineering technique, making it possible to modify multiple genes in a cell simultaneously. As a result, gene editing can now take place more efficiently, says Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ).

The process of gene editing has been made possible by the development of the CRISPR-Cas technique that employs the Cas enzyme to cut out unwanted sections of DNA, guided to the correct spot by RNA molecules.

Until now, scientists had been able to perform a maximum of seven gene edits in a cell at the same time. The Basel-based ETHZ team, led by Professor Randall Platt at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, have already reached 25 simultaneous modifications and say their system has the potential to cut hundreds of pieces of DNA at one time.

“Thanks to this new tool, we and other scientists can now achieve what we could only dream of in the past,” said Platt in a statementexternal link. “Our method enables us, for the first time, to systematically modify entire gene networks in a single step.”

The technique “offers enormous potential for biomedical research and biotechnology”, the statement added.

Gene editing has multiple applications in research into how cells behave, plant breeding and cell replacement therapy.

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