Scientists have unearthed 188 previously unknown types of CRISPR systems buried in the genomes of simple microorganisms.
Best known as a powerful gene-editing tool, CRISPR actually comes from an inbuilt defense system found in bacteria and simple microbes called archaea. CRISPR systems include pairs of “molecular scissors” called Cas enzymes, which allow microbes to cut up the DNA of viruses that attack them. CRISPR technology takes advantage of these scissors to cut genes out of DNA and paste new genes in.
The new study, published Nov. 23 in the journal Science, expands the known diversity of CRISPR systems in microorganisms and could open new avenues for precise gene editing with fewer “off-target” effects, the researchers said.
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