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Biotech Science

Precision Gene Editing 128

mpthompson writes " is reporting that scientists at Sangamo Biosciences have developed a method of editing DNA mutations with unprecedented precision without weaving in potentially harmful foreign genetic material. Different combinations of amino acids are designed to latch on and cut the DNA at exactly the place where the mutated gene lies. This triggers the body's natural repair process which corrects the gene where the DNA was cut. The technique will be used to target diseases caused by single-gene mutations such as combined immune deficiency (X-SCID) - or bubble boy disease - and sickle cell anaemia."
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Precision Gene Editing

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  • by bobscealy ( 830639 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:41PM (#12182255)
    The article only mentions cutting the DNA and then "allowing the body's natural repair processes" to do the rest - it seems that this technique could also be useful in inserting genes at precise locations in DNA instead of letting viruses and bacteria insert genetic material wherever they please? I am no genetic engineer, can anyone comment?
  • Clarification (Score:3, Interesting)

    by caryw ( 131578 ) <> on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:42PM (#12182260) Homepage
    So this treatment actually alters the genetic code of a human? So any genetic disease would not get passed down to future generations? How is something like this administered? Our DNA is found in every cell of our body.
    Fairfax Underground: Fairfax County message board and public records []
  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:45PM (#12182287) Homepage Journal
    "and it is among the benefits of science that it equips the future for its duties."

    -- Alfred North Whitehead, 1927
  • by nebaz ( 453974 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:47PM (#12182298)
    Before the first atom bomb was detonated, there were some scientists that thought that the nuclear reaction would spread and ignite the entire atmosphere. Despite their reservations, the tests were done anyway. Screwing up has never been a risk people considered worthy enough to stop a scientific experiment.
  • by Seoulstriker ( 748895 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:50PM (#12182320)
    I have a feeling that this has to do with homologous recombination, where damage to a certain gene causes the chromosomes to auto-repair themselves by copying the target gene from the "good" chromosome. At least that's my take on why they would mention damaging the DNA to repair it.
  • by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:52PM (#12182338) Homepage
    Great, now the gene splicers have the equivalent of a hex editor, but still have no clue what they are editing. It's like hacking binary code out of one program and inserting into another program and somehow getting it to work.

    Until we have a better handle on Gene Expression [] and how to actually interpret the genetic code we should proceed cautiously.

    To quote Dr. J. Craig Venter, Time's Scientist of the year (2000).

    "We know far less than one per cent of what will be known about biology, human physiology, and medicine.
    My view of biology is 'We dont know shit.' "

    If any am being overcautious or am ill-informed please feel free to correct me. I try to live by the motto, "Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should." This applies to System Administration as much as it does to gene-hacking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @07:55PM (#12182360)
    According to Bill Bryson's book (A Brief History of Everything, if I remember the title correctly), every young incoming physicist on the Manhattan project was assigned the problem of proving that the atmosphere wouldn't catch fire or that some new form of matter that would alter the earth would not be created...

  • by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:19PM (#12182554) Homepage
    In certain isolated cases this has found to be true, but Dr. Richard Strohman, from UC Berkley wrote this.

    "Genes exist in networks, interactive networks which have a logic of their own. The [gene] technology point of view does not deal with these networks. It simply addresses genes in isolation. But genes do not exist in isolation. And the fact that the [biotech] industry folks don't deal with these networks is what makes their science incomplete and dangerous."
    Dr. Richard Strohman, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California, Berkeley. From his article "Crisis position". [EL]

    So does this mean that until we understand the environmental interactions between, you won't fully understand how the organism will express its genes. This is similar to programming, since a program may run differently based on the environment in which it is run.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:27PM (#12182628)
    Yeah, but you have to ask yourself whether the elevated rate of DNA repair is significant compared to the constant repair going on due to standard ROS/RNS/other radical attacks.

    And their current results of the 18% corrected rate, as they point out, is therapeutically effective.

    Plus, their recognition system using zinc fingers may have a higher recognition rate for the targeted sequence, and the corrections are applied to only a small area of DNA - so the overall error rate of DNA replication/repair is spread out over the cells they are treating.

    If I had a disease of the blood requiring gene therapy, I'd rather have this treatment than gene therapy using an adenoviral vector - that method is just asking for trouble with near random genomic insertion.

    It's a clever idea - hope to see it developed further :)
  • Re:Mutations... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:20AM (#12184386)
    i think u bring up an interesting point. digital gene modeling.

    programs similar to automata programs that currently run with simple sets of rules. each data set is a discrete genome. recombine over generations, tag all genomes that have disease preconditions and allow them to "evolve" that way.

    it's interesting, because computing is ridiculously cheap and so is data storage. This can even be run as a distributed project. people volunteer their genomes anonymously and the entire simulation is run across the net.

    the reason this is interesting is that we can see maybe a number of generations down the line... se how current trends in gene distribution occurred and possibly predict future trends.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous