Scientists at MIT have found a new class of programmable DNA modification systems and this is not CRISPR.
This is an enzyme that cuts DNA: it originated from bacteria and can now work in human cells. The latter property is especially useful for the future development of gene editing techniques. Another plus is its small size, about 30% of the volume of Cas9, which is another enzyme that can cut DNA.
The new discovery confirms that naturally occurring RNA-guided enzymes are among the most abundant proteins on earth, and this is a whole new field of biology that will help revolutionize genome editing technology.
These kinds of enzymes can be adapted for different uses, such as targeting a specific target in the body in order to destroy it.
The first hints that OMEGA proteins can be controlled by RNA appeared in the genes of the IscBs proteins. These proteins are not involved in CRISPR immunity and are not associated with RNA, but they look like little enzymes that cut DNA. The authors of the new work found that each IscB protein had a small RNA encoded nearby, and it directed the IscB enzymes to cut specific DNA sequences.
The researchers believe that IscBs and other similar proteins are precursors of the Cas9 and Cas12 CRISPR systems. The authors point out that these proteins also spawned other RNA-guided enzymes, but scientists just haven’t found them yet.