If you are a regular reader of UP' Magazine, you probably know the CRISPR-case 9 that we often mention: this biological scissor capable of copying and pasting pieces of DNA. It is now the turn of the RNA to go under the scissors of C2C2. A considerable advance that will make it possible to eradicate many viruses, cancers and other pathogens, without touching, this time, the fundamental code of our species: DNA.
Sf the DNA carries the genetic code of our body, the RNA carries out its instructions and allows this code to work. Metaphorically, the DNA gives the recipe, but the RNA reads that recipe and directs the whole kitchen. RNA is therefore functionally inseparable from DNA because it is responsible for translating messages from the nucleus to the rest of the cell. While scientists used to think that RNA was just an "intermediary", over the past few decades they have realized that it is, in fact, much more than that: it can check the proteins that are produced in the cell.
CRISPR-Case 9, originally developed by the two biologists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, focuses on DNA and identifies pieces of genes that need to be repaired or replaced. We have spoken several times about the ethical issues raised by this process.
However, a major breakthrough was published on June 2 in the journal Science. It is co-authored by MIT and Harvard biologist Feng Zhang. The latter, who disputes the paternity of CRISPR with his two fellow biologists, states that he has discovered another version of CRISPR called C2C2, whose main function is to cut exclusively RNA molecules.
This C2C2 functions, like CRSPR, as a pair of molecular scissors capable of dissociating any undesirable pathogen from the RNA. Pathogen attacks could thus be deactivated.
The big difference between the two tools is that C2C2 only targets RNA and not the DNA itself, which means that scientists can make changes and corrections to what happens in the cell, without touching the genetic code itself.
Zhang's team tested the system by introducing C2C2 into a bacteria E-Coli. They then demonstrated that they were able to turn off a gene by targeting RNA alone. By attacking the RNA carrying the instructions of the gene, they were able to deactivate the gene without having to intervene on the DNA. In addition, researchers claim to be able to track the movement of RNA in a cell and thus monitor the effect that changes in genetic information have on the cell or even the entire body.
Finally, knowing that DNA changes can occur continuously during a pathogenic attack, scientists say that the induced RNA changes could be traced and therefore refined during treatment.
In a statement ...at MIT, Professor Zhang said, " C2C2 opens a new frontier, that of new and even more powerful CRISPR tools ". He goes on, enthusiastic:"There are a huge number of opportunities for C2C2 and we are very pleased to develop a platform for research in life sciences and medicine in this way. ".
In the experiment that is the subject of the study published in Science Collateral damage was noted: some RNAs that looked like target molecules were unintentionally attacked. However, the researchers are convinced that their method can only progress and that it will very quickly demonstrate its usefulness in several treatments. Dr. Colin Barras, the journal's specialist New Scientist believes that this method could provide a most effective means of fighting cancer tumours.
A discovery that, if confirmed, could revolutionize medicine and give hope in the treatment of many diseases. We will therefore follow it with great attention.