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Ever since the now Nobel-winning discovery of CRISPR genome editing in 2012, scientists have been racing to improve on its DNA-targeting-and-cutting action. A huge step forward came in 2016, with the invention of base editing, and another with prime editing in 2019, both from the Broad Institute lab of David Liu. The advances made it possible to precisely slice open a double-strand of DNA and change the sequence — swap out a nucleotide for another, or add or subtract a few in one go. But when faced with making bigger deletions, anything over 100 base pairs, even these shiny new tools weren’t up to the task.

Now, two teams of scientists have independently developed even newer versions of prime editing that can precisely cut out up to 10,000 base pairs at a time. One of the groups also used their method to cure mice of an inherited liver disorder.


The findings, published Thursday in a pair of papers in Nature Biotechnology by teams at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Washington, Seattle, are both very early proofs of concept. But while CRISPR’ing away huge chunks of DNA in humans is still years away, at best, the success in mice bolsters hopes that newer generations of genome editors will be able to correct extensive and complicated glitches currently out of reach.

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