Geneticists in the MIT genetic society are rejecting the notion of human “cloning,” arguing that it will be detrimental to the welfare of the species.
Geneticists at the MIT lab of the MIT Media Lab (MML) are leading the way in a new effort to build on advances made in recent years, such as the successful development of a gene-editing technology called CRISPR.
The MIT researchers say that by building upon the knowledge gained from the last decade of work by others, they can provide a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of disease and disease processes and their genetic basis.
This new approach, they argue, is the “next step” in genetic engineering, which is a process that creates new genetic sequences, often based on the knowledge gleaned from a person’s genes.
“It’s an exciting time to be a geneticist,” says Geneviève Proulx, a professor of biology at MIT.
“We’re beginning to build a better picture of what is going on in the genome.”
A new technique for genome editing, called CRISTE, uses CRISP (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) sequences to target specific genes.
A gene or region of the genome can be targeted to be targeted, and a gene’s specific sequences are copied onto the target genome, which then becomes part of the target’s genome.
“The next step in genetic medicine will be to make it easier for us to treat genetic diseases,” says Proullx, who was not involved in the work.
The new approach to gene editing relies on a technique called CRIC (cluster-specific complementary intron editing), which uses the CRISR (crRNA) genes of the human genome.
CRISPs are a family of proteins that are present in the DNA of all cells and which act as regulatory elements for the functioning of genetic information in cells.
These genes are used in almost every cell in the body, and the majority of these genes encode proteins that regulate genes that regulate other genes.
CRIC has shown promise in the treatment of many types of genetic disorders, such in Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and Huntington’s disease.
The MIT researchers were among the first to make use of CRISRs, and they recently published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The team of MIT researchers are also leading a group of colleagues at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, which has also developed CRISCR technology.
“There is tremendous interest in CRISRCPs,” says Seth Shostak, a graduate student in the Proulix lab who helped design the research.
“The problem with using CRISRS is that the technology is not scalable to use in a wide variety of systems, which requires a lot of effort.”
Another challenge is the need to use a specific CRISRI gene for a given application, he says.
“This requires a very large genome.”
For example, Proulli says that CRISRNAs for Parkinson’s and Huntington disease could be used to edit a single cell.
But if the scientists are to create CRISrRNA-based treatments for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s, they need to be able to target multiple genes in the human body.
“In order to use CRISDRs to treat Parkinson’s [and Huntington’s] we need to know the genes that cause the disease and the ones that cause Parkinson’s to respond to CRISTRs,” he says, adding that they must also know the genetic underpins of the diseases and the proteins involved in their genetic underpins.
This work has been a long time coming, Shostaks says, but it’s something that the group has been working on for many years.
“We’ve always had the intention of getting this technology off the ground, but this is a step in the right direction,” he adds.
“This technology is one of the many things that are emerging as we look at how to harness the potential of the Human Genome Project,” Shostack says.
While the research team is making progress on the CRISTECH technology, the next major step is a collaboration with other researchers to make CRISRNA-edited human embryos.
The group is also working on an experiment that uses CRISTech technology to generate embryos from embryonic stem cells.
Shostas says that the experiments will be able produce embryos with both human and nonhuman genomes.
The idea behind CRISER is to use gene editing to edit the genome of an organism, rather than using a single gene to edit it.
This means that a new gene will not be required to edit every single gene, rather, it can be used for multiple different genes, which in turn allows for the creation of more embryos.
While this new technology is a great step forward, the MIT researchers have to be careful in the way they go about