A team from the University of Trento has developed a new genetic editing technique. It is called evoCas9 and is even more precise than Crispr / Cas9. According to the authors of the study, this technique will make it possible to correct alterations related to genetic diseases and tumors.
The Cas9 molecule used for Crispr modifies the gene that interests and the one around it. In this way it causes further mutations that are difficult to predict, which could have negative consequences in turn. Instead, the new technique uses an enzyme that can modify only the point that interests it. Thus evoCas9 could be exploited also in non-medical sectors, such as livestock and agriculture.
The name evoCas9 comes from the process behind the development of the molecule, similar to the Darwinian evolution. The Cas9 molecule is born in bacteria and is inaccurate to protect the body against all foreign DNA. The researchers have therefore made it evolve in the yeasts, which are simple but more like human cells. Generation after generation, they have selected the most accurate versions until the desired result is achieved.
Once the extremely accurate Cas9 version was obtained, they experimented with evoCas9 on human cells. Compared to the original Crisp / Cas9, the new version has only four different amino acids and a completely different selection criterion. To develop the original editing technique, US researchers had relied on algorithms. Instead, Italian researchers have evolved their molecule in vivo.