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From Bacterial Viruses to Genome Editing

Genome editing may enable researchers and clinicians to edit genes within the human genome to treat conditions like sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis, but the idea for such editing came to Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley, as she was studying how bacteria avoid viral infections, NPR reports.

To stave off infection, bacteria slice the viral DNA and make a change to the DNA at that site to disable the virus. If those where and how changes occur could be directed, then any DNA sequence could be modified to how scientists want.

"I thought, wow, if this could work in animal or plant cells, this could be a very, very useful and very powerful tool," Doudna tells NPR.

And CRISPR/Cas9 editing has shown some exciting promise as a faster and cheaper way to make changes to DNA within cells, and could have significance for medicine, NPR notes.

For instance, if two carriers for the cystic fibrosis gene want to avoid passing it on to their child, the CRISPR/Cas9 approach could be employed to change the affected gene. Blood disorders like sickle cell anemia, which is caused by a single gene, could also be treated this way.

"You can envision removing blood cells from a patient, doing the editing and putting those cells back into the patient," Doudna says.

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.