Researchers used single-molecule imaging to compare the genome-editing tools CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN. Their experiments revealed that TALEN is up to five times more efficient than CRISPR-Cas9 in parts of the genome, called heterochromatin, that are densely packed. Fragile X syndrome, sickle cell anemia, beta-thalassemia and other diseases are the result of genetic defects in the heterochromatin.
University of Illinois researchers achieved the highest reported rates of inserting genes into human cells with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system, a necessary step for harnessing CRISPR for clinical gene-therapy applications.
By chemically tweaking the ends of the DNA to be inserted, the new technique is up to five times more efficient than current approaches. The researchers saw improvements at various genetic locations tested in a human kidney cell line, even seeing 65% insertion at one site where the previous high had been 15%.
By folding snippets of DNA into the shape of a five-pointed star using structural DNA nanotechnology, researchers have created a trap that captures dengue virus as it floats in the bloodstream. Once sprung, the trap – which is nontoxic and is naturally cleared from the body – lights up. It’s the most sensitive test yet for the mosquito-borne diseases.
Although it is erroneously treated as a subspecies, the dwindling African forest elephant is a genetically distinct species. New University of Illinois research has found that forest elephant populations across Central Africa are genetically quite similar to one another. Conserving this critically endangered species across its range is crucial to preserving local plant diversity in Central and West African Afrotropical forests--meaning conservationists could save many species by protecting one.
Research by Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Huimin Zhao and graduate student Behnam Enghiad is pioneering a new method of genetic engineering for basic and applied biological research and medicine. Their work, reported in ACS Synthetic Biology on February 6 [DOI:10.1021/acssynbio.6b00324], has the potential to open new doors in genomic research by improving the precision and adherence of sliced DNA.
Despite reported differences in appearance and behavior, DNA evidence finds that Namibian desert elephants are not a subspecies, but rather another population of African savanna elephants in Namibia. However, Namibian desert-dwelling elephants should be protected so they can continue to pass on their unique knowledge and survival skills to future generations.
To pack two meters of DNA into a microscopic cell, the string of genetic information must be wound extremely carefully into chromosomes. Surprisingly the DNA’s sequence causes it to be coiled and uncoiled much like a yoyo, scientists reported in Cell.
University of Illinois anthropology professor Ripan Malhi looks to DNA to tell the story of how ancient humans first came to the Americas and what happened to them once they were here.