High-Resolution, 3D Images Of Gene-Editing Enzymes
For the first time, scientists have captured high-resolution, three-dimensional images of an enzyme in the process of precisely cutting DNA strands. The images–captured using a technique called cryogenic electron microscopy, or cryo-EM–reveal new information about how a gene-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9 works, which may help researchers develop versions of it that operate more efficiently and precisely to alter targeted genes.
The findings hold promise for future treatment and prevention of a range of human diseases caused by DNA mutations, from cancer to cystic fibrosis and Huntington disease. These images provide researchers with invaluable information to improve the efficiency of the gene-editing process so that we can hopefully correct disease-causing DNA mutations more quickly and precisely in the future.
To better understand the sequence of events involved in the process, they used cryo-EM technology to image the Cas9 enzyme at work. The images provide unprecedented glimpses of the stepwise molecular motions that occur in the course of DNA cutting by Cas9, including a snapshot of the cut DNA still attached to the enzyme immediately before release.
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