A group of scientists affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology unveiled a novel gene-editing tool that differs from the existing CRISPR technology and has improved efficiency.
The modular gene-editing system, named CyDENT, is designed to alleviate the potential export restrictions on China's biotechnology sector by the United States, says a South China Morning Post report.
According to a study accepted for publication in the journal Nature Biotechnology on 28 August, CyDENT operates distinctively compared to CRISPR/Cas9, which is under patent protection in the United States. While CRISPR/Cas9 utilizes double-strand DNA cleavage to facilitate modifications to the underlying base pairs, CyDENT achieves strand-specific gene editing without necessitating any DNA cleavage.
Kevin Zhao, a co-author of the study and co-founder of Qi Biodesign in Suzhou, boasts that CyDENT relies on modular components to perform various stages of the editing process. This design flexibility enables researchers to select the most suitable application for emerging variations.
He explained that the CRISPR-based systems, which rely on guide RNA to function effectively, particularly when editing DNA in cellular components such as human mitochondria or plant chloroplasts, have many limitations. These structures pose challenges due to difficulties in delivering the guide RNA. Mitochondria and chloroplasts contain nucleic acids, but RNA is single-stranded, whereas DNA is double-stranded.
To address these challenges, CyDENT employs a "protein-based approach," utilizing a protein signal for editor transport, thus bypassing the need for guide RNA.
This innovation allows access to hard-to-reach cell genomes. Notably, within mitochondria, which serve as cellular powerhouses, numerous single-nucleotide variations have been identified, believed to be linked to diseases.
CyDENT's single-strand editing capability offers the potential for precise base conversion in addressing these variations, as outlined in the research paper.