Knock-out mutations caused by CRISPR-Cas9 result in the repair of the double-stranded break by means of non-homologous end joining (NHEJ)
Working like genetic scissors, the Cas9 nuclease opens both strands of the targeted sequence of DNA to introduce the modification by one of two methods. Knock-in mutations, facilitated via homology directed repair (HDR), is the traditional pathway of targeted genomic editing approaches. This allows for the introduction of targeted DNA damage and repair. HDR employs the use of similar DNA sequences to drive the repair of the break via the incorporation of exogenous DNA to function as the repair template. This method relies on the periodic and isolated occurrence of DNA damage at the target site in order for the repair to commence. Knock-out mutations caused by CRISPR-Cas9 result in the repair of the double-stranded break by means of non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). NHEJ can often result in random deletions or insertions at the repair site, which may disrupt or alter gene functionality. Therefore, genomic engineering by CRISPR-Cas9 gives researchers the ability to generate targeted random gene disruption. Because of this, the precision of genome editing is a great concern. Genomic editing leads to irreversible changes to the genome.
While genome editing in eukaryotic cells has been possible using various methods since the 1980s, the methods employed had proved to be inefficient and impractical to implement on a large scale. With the discovery of CRISPR and specifically the Cas9 nuclease molecule, efficient and highly selective editing is now a reality. Cas9 derived from the bacterial species Streptococcus pyogenes has facilitated targeted genomic modification in eukaryotic cells by allowing for a reliable method of creating a targeted break at a specific location as designated by the crRNA and tracrRNA guide strands. The ease with which researchers can insert Cas9 and template RNA in order to silence or cause point mutations at specific loci has proved invaluable to the quick and efficient mapping of genomic models and biological processes associated with various genes in a variety of eukaryotes. Newly engineered variants of the Cas9 nuclease have been developed that significantly reduce off-target activity.
CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing techniques have many potential applications, including in medicine and agriculture. The use of the CRISPR-Cas9-gRNA complex for genome editing] was the AAAS's choice for Breakthrough of the Year in 2015. Many bioethical concerns have been raised about the prospect of using CRISPR for germline editing, especially in human embryos
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