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Epigenetic Editing Explored

Rather than using CRISPR gene editing to modify genes, researchers are also exploring its use as an epigenetic editor to affect the expression of certain genes, Wired reports.

For instance, it notes that researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago recently showed that they could epigenetically edit the expression of Arc, which encodes a regulator of synaptic plasticity, in the amygdalas of rats. Both rodents and people who are exposed to alcohol at a young age have decreased Arc expression, which has also been tied to later anxiety and alcohol use disorder, Wired adds.

But as they report in Science Advances, the researchers found that they could change Arc expression by altering the epigenetic marks at a nearby site, which, in turn, led to decreased anxiety and alcohol use among the rats.

Senior author Subhash Pandey from UIC cautions at Wired that this approach is a ways off from being applied to people, but that he is hopeful that it could be. Companies, too, Wired notes, are exploring whether epigenetic editing could be used to address, for example, chronic pain and more.