Week in Review: June 6–10

“Recording” DNA with CRISPR; selecting edited cells in vivo; toward reducing mitochondrial replacement therapy risk; Homo floresiensis fossils; National Academies outline gene-drive recommendations

Jun 10, 2016
Tracy Vence

DNA record

Scientists at Harvard University have devised a way to record molecular events in E. coli cells using a CRISPR/Cas system. “It’s the first demonstration of the ordered acquisition of intentionally introduced DNA sequences,” the University of California, Berkeley’s Adam Arkin, who was not involved in the study, told The Scientist.

Reducing MRT risk

One of the risks associated with mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) is that a mother’s mutant mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) might still make it into the resulting “three-parent” embryo. Researchers at Newcastle University and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research and their colleagues have devised an approach that appears to reduce this risk. “It’s a very beautiful and carefully conducted study that has improved the pronuclear transfer technique,” said Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation and Columbia University who was not involved in the work.

Homo floresiensis fossils

Scientists have estimated that specimens from at least three individuals thought to belong to the “hobbit”-like hominin species Homo floresiensis are around 700,000 years old, pushing back the date these ancient ancestors first appeared. “It really is the final nail in the coffin for people who believe hobbits were pathological modern humans,” said William Harcourt-Smith of Lehman College in New York City who was not involved with the work.

Selecting modified cells in vivo

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and their colleagues have devised a method to selectively expand genetically modified liver cells in living mice. “The new method paves the way to therapies for many metabolic diseases,” study coauthor Adi Barzel of Stanford University said during a press briefing.

Gene drives report

The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have recommended controlled field trials testing gene-drive technologies. “The potential to reduce human suffering and ecological damage demands scientific attention,” Vanderbilt University’s Elizabeth Heitman, who helped lead the National Academies–appointed committee, told The New York Times. “Gene drive is a fascinating area of science that has promise if we can study it appropriately.”