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CRISPR Creates Knockout Libraries

Two research groups have developed a database of human gene knockouts generated from the new genome editing technology.  

By | December 16, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, NISSIM BENVENISTY CRISPR technology is an approach to genome editing that has skyrocketed to stardom because of its speed, ease of use, efficiency, and ever-expanding applications. Now, two groups seized upon CRISPR (which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) to build knockout libraries of human genes. “With this work, it is now possible to conduct systematic genetic screens in mammalian cells,” David Sabatini, an author of one of the studies and a member of the Whitehead Institute, said in a statement.

Bacteria and archaea use clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats use in immune responses, but researchers have exploited the genetic components to rewrite or disrupt specific sites in the genomes of myriad organisms, including human cells. In both of the new studies, published last week in Science, the teams used their CRISPR-built libraries to screen for human genes involved in resistance to cancer drugs.

The study authors say CRISPR offers major advantages over RNAi, the common approach to conducting mutant screens in mammalian cells. “The CRISPR-Cas9 screening method distinguishes itself from RNAi by producing knockouts instead of knockdowns and it will be cleaner for many phenotypes to see the complete knockout,” David Root, director of the Broad Institute's Genetic Perturbation Platform and an author of the other study, said in a statement.

These papers together demonstrate the extraordinary power and versatility of the CRISPR-Cas9 system as a tool for genome-wide discovery of the mechanisms underlying mammalian biology,” added Sabatini's co-author Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute. “And we are just at the beginning: we’re still uncovering the capabilities of this system and its many applications.” Earlier this month, researchers demonstrated that CRISPR can be employed to correct disease-causing genetic defects.

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