Genetic reprogramming can help stem cells mature into desired cell types, but it is often kludgy, which is to say, clumsy and inefficient—or worse, inexact. It may produce cells that don’t mature quite as much as they should, or that fail to represent the exact right subtype. These shortcomings may be avoided if more elegant genetic programming methods become available, methods of the sort being developed by scientists in the Duke University laboratory led by Charles Gersbach, PhD, an associate professor of biomedical engineering.
According to a new study from the Gersbach laboratory, genetic reprogramming may be improved with a CRISPR-based method called CRISPR activation (CRISPRa). The Gersbach team used CRISPRa to identify factors that could improve the efficiency with which stem cells are turned into neurons. CRISPRa, the scientists pointed out, could have a more general application. That is, CRISPRa could be extended to other cell reprogramming applications and facilitate the production of cell types other than neurons. Ultimately, CRISPRa could help researchers generate cell sources that would be useful for disease modeling, drug screening, and regenerative medicine… Continue reading.
Sleek CRISPR systems get almost all the attention. They rely on single-protein nucleases instead of multiunit effectors, which are, presumably, too unwieldy for gene engineering applications. Yet CRISPR jumbles have been given a tumble by scientists at Duke University. Led by Charles Gersbach, PhD, the Rooney Family associate professor of biomedical engineering and Adrian Oliver, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow, these scientists used a multiunit effector system to turn target genes on and off in human cells.
Specifically, the scientists used a class 1 CRISPR-Cas system called Cascade (CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defense). And as if it wasn’t clunky enough already, the scientists tacked on a couple of extras—activation and repression domains. The system, however, omitted the Cas enzyme that would have ordinarily been present… Continue reading.
To advance the engineering of biology at the molecular and cellular levels, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $16 million for research to characterize the regulation of gene activity and expression, and to create strategies to modify those processes without altering the DNA sequence.
Chromatin — a combination of DNA, RNA and proteins within a cell’s nucleus — can be modified by attaching additional molecules. This can cause altered gene expression without actually changing the cell’s DNA. These so-called epigenetic changes can alter an organism’s traits, or phenotype, and may even be passed to offspring.
The NSF EFRI Chromatin and Epigenetic Engineering (CEE) investment will support potentially transformative research by eight interdisciplinary teams:
WASHINGTON, D.C.— The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the pending induction of Charles Alan Gersbach, Ph.D., Rooney Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, to its College of Fellows. Dr. Gersbach was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows For outstanding contributions to the fields of biomolecular and genome engineering, synthetic biology, gene therapy, and genomics and epigenomics..