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The CRISPR-Cas system has become the go-to tool for researchers who study genes in an ever-growing list of organisms, and is being used to develop new gene therapies that potentially can correct a defect at a single nucleotide position of the vast reaches of the genome. It is also being harnessed in ongoing diagnostic approaches for the detection of pathogens and disease-causing mutations in patients.
Now, reporting in Science, a research team at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrates the use of CRISPR as a control element in a new type of stimuli-responsive "smart" materials. Upon activation by specific natural or user-defined DNA stimuli, a CRISPR-Cas enzyme enables a variety of smart materials to release bound cargo such as fluorescent dyes and active enzymes, change their structures to deploy encapsulated nanoparticles and live cells, or regulate electric circuits thereby converting biological into electric signals.
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"Our study shows that the power of CRISPR can be harnessed outside of the laboratory for controlling the behavior of DNA-responsive materials. We developed a range of materials with very different capabilities that highlight the breadth of applications enabled by programmable CRISPR-responsive smart materials," said Wyss Institute Founding Core Faculty member James Collins, Ph.D., who led the study and is a leader of the Institute's Living Cellular Devices platform. "These applications include novel theranostic strategies, point-of-care diagnostics, and the regional monitoring of epidemic outbreaks and environmental hazards." Collins also is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and a Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT.
The CRISPR-Cas system has gained its fame because of its ability to find almost any target sequence in the genome with the help of a short complementary guide-RNA (gRNA), and to cut and repair the DNA double strand with surgical precision. In the present...
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