A new genetic editing tool called Prime editing is the latest advancement in the field of gene editing.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of Crispr specifically Crispr-Cas9, developed 7 years ago, which scans the DNA and then makes a cut like a microscopic pair of scissors, which gives the ability to edit the DNA. However, it is not always 100% accurate in the cuts and sometimes, things can go wrong.
But Prime Editing, a new gene-editing tool is promising precision.
How Prime Editing Works
Developed by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts, Prime Editing uses a lab-made sequence of genetic code. This code is divided into 2 halves with 2 functions.
One part is used to find the genetic sequence you want to edit and the other half contains the edit you want to make.
The code is paired with the enzyme ‘Reverse Transcriptase’ which does the edit by copying the edited DNA sequence from the lab-made gene sequence to the DNA sequence which is to be edited.
This technique has been used in the lab with some success. It has been able to correct the DNA mutations that cause Sickle Cell Anemia, and Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and fatal nerve condition.
Out of the 75,000 different mutations that can cause disease in people, 89% of them can be fixed by Prime Editing says Dr. David Liu, a researcher working on the project.
The challenge with Prime Editing, as is with other gene-editing methods is getting the molecular machinery that can perform these edits safely in the human body.
So we will most likely see it being used for diseases where the cells can be taken out of the body, edited, checked and put back it. This will apply for some blood diseases like sickle cell or thalassemias, where the bone marrow can be removed and put back.
But this technology is still a long way off.