Updated on 14 September 2016
Singapore: Researchers in Singapore have developed a new protein that can alter DNA in living cells with much higher precision than current methods.
The ability to alter DNA accurately will open more doors in the development of personalised medicine that could help to tackle human diseases that currently have few treatment options. Examples of diseases that have unmet therapeutic needs include neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophies, and blood disorders like sickle cell anaemia.
This new protein, named iCas, can be controlled by an external chemical input and thus solves some of the problems with CRISPR-Cas, the existing gold-standard for DNA altering. For example, existing Cas enzymes may sometimes alter places in the DNA that result in dire consequences. With iCas, users now have the ability to control enzyme activity and thus minimize unintended DNA modifications in the cell.
Developed by a collaboration between A*STAR's Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), iCas has been published in the peer reviewed scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology.
Leading the joint research team is Dr Tan Meng How, Senior Research Scientist of Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology at the GIS, and Assistant Professor at NTU's School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering.