By Swati Kadam, PhD
Genome editing is not a new concept to the scientific community and has been around for decades. However, directing precise sequence changes at desired sites has remained a difficult and tedious challenge for researchers. Limited successes have been achieved with oligonucleotides, small molecules,or self-splicing introns, but the development of site-directed zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) and TAL effector nucleases (TALENs) has facilitated sequence-specific manipulations. Nevertheless, difficulties of protein design, synthesis, and testing have slowed adoption of these engineered nucleases for routine use in genome editing experiments. The most recent gene editing technology, the CRISPR-Cas9 system, largely overcomes these difficulties, making it an attractive method for genome editing. It is critical that we adopt a workflow and use technology that can make genome editing efficient by accurately identifying on- and off-target mutations, producing a gene-edited organism that may have fewer or no off-targeted gene side effects. Today, with the aid of gene editing tools, researchers can quickly generate model organisms that can be used to study human diseases, test efficacy of various drugs, and even create genetically modified organisms during times of an epidemic, as has been done for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a vector for the Zika virus.
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