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Next Generation of CRISPR

CRISPR has had a banner year, but Wired writes that what it's dubbed "CRISPR Classic" may soon be obsolete.

It notes that the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing machinery can be "somewhat clunky" as it sometimes cuts DNA at not-quite-the-right spot and lacks brakes to slow it down. Because of those limitations, Wired writes that researchers have been working on improving the CRISPR tool.

For instance, it says researchers at the Salk Institute have used an altered form of the Cas9 protein that can bind, but not cut, DNA to make epigenetic changes, while Broad Institute researchers have developed their own enzyme so that the gene-editing system changes one base at a time. At the same time, others have uncovered anti-CRISPR proteins that turn the machinery off and limit its off-target effects, it adds.

"We don't know what's going to wind up working best for different applications," Innovative Genomics Institute's Megan Hochstrasser tells Wired. "So for now I think it makes sense for everyone to be pushing on all these tools all at once."

Wired adds that researchers are also searching for proteins that bind RNA rather than DNA.