[News release] Activating genes on demand
In these images, the ability of the new Cas9 approach to differentiate stem cells into brain neuron cells is visible. On the left, a previous attempt to direct stem cells to develop into neuronal cells shows a low level of success, with limited red–colored areas indicating low growth of neuron cells. On the right, the new Cas9 approach shows a 40–fold increase in the number of neuronal cells developed, visible as red-colored areas on the image. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
New mechanism for engineering genetic traits governed by multiple genes paves the way for various advances in genomics and regenerative medicine
When it comes to gene expression – the process by which our DNA provides the recipe used to direct the synthesis of proteins and other molecules that we need for development and survival – scientists have so far studied one single gene at a time. Anew approach developed by Harvard geneticist George Church, Ph.D., can help uncover how tandem gene circuits dictate life processes, such as the healthy development of tissue or the triggering of a particular disease, and can also be used for directing precision stem cell differentiation for regenerative medicine and growing organ transplants.
The findings, reported by Church and his team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School in Nature Methods, show promise that precision gene therapies could be developed to prevent and treat disease on a highly customizable, personalized level, which is crucial given the fact that diseases develop among diverse pathways among genetically–varied individuals. Wyss Core Faculty member Jim Collins, Ph.D. was also a co-author on the paper. Collins is also the Henri Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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