CRISPR may have generated a lot of buzz this year, but some researchers are already looking beyond it to the next new gene-editing technique. Say hello to prime editing.
“If CRISPR is like scissors … then you can think of prime editors like word processors,” said chemist David Liu in an October press briefing. He spoke days ahead of the first-ever prime editing study, published in Nature and authored by Liu and his team at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University. Liu explained that, while CRISPR cuts through DNA’s double helix to snip out genes, prime editing searches for and replaces targeted genes without such slicing and dicing, reducing the risk of unintended changes to the genetic code.
The team was able to correct mutations associated with both sickle cell and Tay-Sachs diseases. Liu believes the technique ultimately might be able to correct almost 90 percent of such mutations, but stressed additional studies are needed to gauge prime editing’s full potential.
“This is the beginning, rather than the end,” said Liu.
[This story appeared in print as “It’s Prime Time for a New Gene Editor.”]