Science 2 min read

Researchers use Hairpin Lock to Make CRISPR Tech More Accurate



Biomedical researchers from Duke University have developed a new approach to make CRISPR technology more accurate. Called the hairpin lock, the Duke Biomed engineers added a short tail to the guide RNA, creating a lock that can only be undone by the targeted DNA sequence.

According to the paper, published by the researchers in Nature Biotechnology, the method could make the CRISPR gene-editing tech up to 50 times for accurate. Charles Gersbach, one of the researchers and co-author of the study, said:

“CRISPR is generally incredibly accurate, but there are examples that have shown off-target activity, so there’s been broad interest across the field in increasing specificity. But the solutions proposed thus far cannot be easily translated between different CRISPR systems.”

The team believes that despite the remarkable accuracy of the CRISPR genome-editing system, scrolling through billions of DNA base pairs could cause it to be off target at times.

The Hairpin Lock

All CRISPR systems have one thing in common, the guide RNA. The team added 20 nucleotides to the end of the guide RNA which loops back on itself to form a lock that is difficult to break. The only thing that can loosen the hairpin lock is the target sequence of DNA which the guide RNA binds itself into. Dewran Kocak, the lead researcher of the team, said:

“We’re able to fine-tune the strength of the lock just enough so that the guide RNA still works when it meets its correct match.”

To test the new approach, the researchers applied it to five different CRISPR variations. The result showed that the RNA lock enhanced the accuracy of the gene edits in the cultured human cells. In fact, in one of the tests, the gene-editing system’s precision was over 200 times more accurate. Kocak added:

“We’re focused on a solution that doesn’t add more parts and is general to any kind of CRISPR system. What’s common to all CRISPR systems is the guide RNA, and these short RNAs are much easier to engineer.”

Read More: CRISPR-Cas 3: Researchers Create New Gene-Editing System

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Rechelle is the current Managing Editor of Edgy. She's an experienced SEO content writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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