An international team of biologists urge careful use of technology in research and flag potential biosafety risks.
The use of gene-editing technology to create virus-resistant cassava plants could have serious negative ramifications, according to new research by plant biologists at the University of Alberta, the University of Liege in Belgium, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Their results show that attempts to genetically engineer the plants to fight off viruses, in fact resulted in the propagation of mutated viruses in controlled laboratory conditions.
“We concluded that because this technology both creates a selection pressure on the viruses to evolve more quickly, and also provides the viruses a means to evolve, it resulted in a virus mutant that is resistant to our interventions,” explained Devang Mehta, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences. CRISPR-Cas9 is found in nature, where bacteria use it to defend against viruses, however the researchers found that the technology results in very different outcomes in plants—and researchers are stressing the importance of screening against these sorts of unintended results in the future.
The cassava plant, the object of the study, is a starchy root vegetable that is consumed for food throughout the tropics. Cassava is a primary staple crop grown in South America, Africa, and Asia, from which 1 billion people get most of their calories each day. Each year, cassava crops are plagued by cassava mosaic disease, which causes 20 per cent crop loss. It is the mosaic disease that Mehta and his colleagues endeavoured to engineer against.
The researchers used a new gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 to attempt to design cassava plants that could cut the DNA of the mosaic virus and make the plants resistant to its damaging effects. Unfortunately, their results were not successful. To understand what happened, the team sequenced hundreds of viral genomes found in each plant.
“We discovered that the pressure that CRISPR-Cas9 applied to the virus probably encouraged it to evolve in a way that increased resistance to intervention,” said Mehta. Mehta hastens to add that CRISPR-Cas9 has many other applications in food and agriculture that do not pose the same risks.
The research team is keen to share their results with other scientists who are using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to engineer virus-resistant plants, and encourage these groups to test their plants to detect similar viral mutations.
“We need to do more research on these types of applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology before we proceed with field testing” said Mehta. Mehta, a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Glen Uhrig, began this research during his PhD studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich.
The Latest on: Gene editing caution
via Google News
The Latest on: Gene editing caution
- The Myth of Algae Biofuelson January 26, 2020 at 7:46 am
In fact, ExxonMobil was confident enough in its breakthrough that it claimed gene editing could allow the production of a startling 10,000 barrels ... These genetic modifications introduce new reasons ...
- Quest to Use CRISPR Against Disease Gains Groundon January 7, 2020 at 10:00 am
“There’s been a lot of appropriate caution in applying this to treating ... could be harnessed to rewrite human genes. Since then gene-editing has attracted attention for its potential to ...
- The first clinical trials of CRISPR gene editing have shown promising resultson January 7, 2020 at 5:48 am
The first results of clinical trials testing CRISPR suggest that the prospect of using the popular gene-editing tool to treat ... s been a lot of appropriate caution in applying this to treating ...
- Gene editing breakthroughs that cured genetic diseases in 2019on January 4, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Medics warn that caution is necessary ... But Crispr, invented in 2012, made gene editing more widely accessible. It is much simpler than preceding technology, cheaper and easy to use in small ...
- Revolutionary gene-editing technology CRISPR spurs ethical debateon January 2, 2020 at 4:00 pm
However, many scientists urge caution as they learn how gene-editing would affect organisms' successive generations. Some say "eugenics lurk in the shadow of CRISPR" with its potential for ...
- CRISPR genetically modified babies scientist gets three years in jailon December 31, 2019 at 11:09 am
But with the tools for gene-editing easily accessible and in some ... Human genetics are complex and undoubtedly require more caution than snipping away a gene and seeing what happens.
- Website access codeon December 28, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Despite the calls for caution, some researchers are forging ahead ... In August, a number of research groups working on gene-editing therapeutics issued a statement asserting heritable gene editing is ...
- Gene-Edited 'Supercells' Make Progress In Fight Against Sickle Cell Diseaseon November 19, 2019 at 5:05 am
"This preliminary data shows for the first time that gene editing has actually helped a patient with sickle cell disease. This is definitely a huge deal." Frangoul and other researchers caution ...
- With scientific innovation comes need for cautionon October 28, 2019 at 7:23 pm
The definition gets technical quickly, but the byproducts of this tool result in gene editing by either adding or removing targeted genes. This discovery has led down many possible roads, including ...
- We’re on the cusp of a gene editing revolution, are we ready?on August 19, 2019 at 4:33 am
Scientists worldwide were shocked by the announcement of the world’s first gene-edited babies last week. Better regulation is necessary – but will be difficult The news of gene-edited twins is ...
via Bing News