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

Scientists have a way to turn off alcoholism: Blasting the brain with lasers

Researchers from Scripps Research have demonstrated that it is possible to reverse the desire to drink in alcohol-dependent rats by targeting a part of the brain using lasers. Here's how.
Computing

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.
Mobile

Rooting your Android device is risky. Do it right with our handy guide

Wondering whether to root your Android smartphone or stick with stock Android? Perhaps you’ve decided to do it and you just need to know how? Here, you'll find an explanation and a quick guide on how to root Android devices.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

Though there are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or operating system.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Twitter is officially a teenager now. Are we raising a monster?

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet. Thirteen years later, Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Here are some of the myriad ways it's done that.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.
Emerging Tech

China has cloned its best police dog. Now it wants to mass-produce more

Scientists in China have cloned the Sherlock Holmes of police sniffer dogs, with possible plans to mass produce it in the future. Here's why its creators think that's a great idea.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.
Emerging Tech

A 3D printer the size of a small barn will produce entire homes in Saudi Arabia

If you’re looking for a 3D printer that can comfortably fit on the side of your desk… well, Danish company Cobod International’s enormous new 3D house printer probably isn’t for you.
Deals

Need a ride? Amazon is slashing prices on popular electric scooters

If you’re not much of a cyclist or if you’re looking for a lazier way to zip about town, an electric scooter should be right up your alley. Two of our favorites, the foldable Glion Dolly and the eco-friendly Razor scooter, are on sale…