CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

CRISPR gene editing technologies offer some exciting possibilities for medicine, whether it’s helping to treat ALS, battling the spread of malaria, or potentially providing us with a limitless supply of transplant organs. But gene editing is controversial, too, as evidenced by the recent outcry concerning reports from China that babies had their DNA edited to potentially stop fatal diseases such as HIV, smallpox, and cholera.

That is one reason why a new piece of research from the University of California, San Francisco researchers is so potentially exciting. They have demonstrated how CRISPR therapies can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice. However, they achieved this long-lasting weight control without having to make one single edit to the mice’s genome. The resulting technique could potentially be applied to other types of genetic modification as well.

“We have two copies of each gene: One from each parent,” Nadav Ahituv, professor of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF, told Digital Trends. “If one copy has a mutation that makes it non-functional, that will provide only half the RNA and protein from that gene. For some genes, this is perfectly fine, but there are 660 genes where having half [the RNA and protein] leads to human disease. In those cases, you still have one perfectly normal copy that is just giving you RNA and protein levels at 50 percent. What we did here was target that normal copy, and squeeze out more RNA and protein from it by increasing the levels it generates. We specifically target that gene by taking advantage of CRISPR … but use a mutant form of CRISPR that is not able to cut DNA, just target it.”

The team selected obesity as their model to see if they could resolve it by targeting the one normal copy of both of two genes critical for regulating hunger. These genes are frequently found to be mutated in severely obese individuals. When one of these the copies of these genes is disabled, the remaining copy has to carry all the workload. As such, the signal it sends — telling the individual that they have eaten enough — is not sufficiently loud. The result is that the person is subject to an unceasing appetite.

Having worked in their experiment with mice, the researchers believe similar approaches could work in human trials. “However, many more experiments and time will be needed before this might be safely used in the clinic,” Ahituv said. “This should only be introduced into patients after proper experiments, clinical trials and human protocol approvals are in place.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Science.

Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

New research could allow fast diagnosis of viruses like Ebola and Zika

A new development in molecular biology is a step towards instant diagnosis of viruses like Ebola or Zika. Researchers have found a way to use a mobile device to identify plant viruses and potentially animal and human viruses too.

Protecting your PDF with a password isn't difficult. Just follow these steps

If you need to learn how to password protect a PDF, you have come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the process of protecting your documents step-by-step, whether you're running a MacOS or Windows machine.
Emerging Tech

The enormous ‘Flying Bum’ moves toward a commercial design

A prototype of the world's largest aircraft is being retired as the company behind it prepares to build a production model. The new Airlander 10, also known as the "Flying Bum," could be ready for commercial use by 2025.
Emerging Tech

Face-scanning A.I. can help doctors spot unusual genetic disorders

Facial recognition can unlock your phone. Could it also be used to identify whether a person has a rare genetic disorder, based on their facial features? New research suggests it can.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…