CRISPR-Cas but different

CRISPR-Cas but different

CRISPR-Cas is known as the scissors that enable molecular biologists to make precise changes in the DNA of living organisms. Plant, microbe, human or animal – CRISPR-Cas always works.

Last week, PhD student Sam van Beljouw at the Stan Brouns Lab of Bionano Science (AS Faculty), published an article in the journal Science about another CRISPR-Cas system that cuts RNA, the hereditary material of viruses. “The new system consists of one large protein that combines the function of more than five small CRISPR-Cas proteins,” says Van Beljouw. “This giant protein cuts RNA from an invading virus at two pre-programmed places, destroying the RNA and dealing the virus its first blow.”

Besides the scientific amazement about the fact that nature has developed a defence system like this, researchers also think about applications. Research leader Dr Stan Brouns says “We expect that this new CRISPR protein can be used as molecular precision scissors to cut RNA. We also see possibilities to turn the CRISPR protein into a kind of switch, for example, to switch on medicines at times when they are really needed.” (JW)

Science editor Jos Wassink

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