Unlocking the Key to Immunological Memory in Bacteria

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system. “We’ve shown that bacteria need only two proteins to facilitate this process, Cas1 and Cas2,” says Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division. “Our findings could provide an alternative way of introducing needed genetic information into a human cell or correcting a problem in an existing genome.”

Doudna and her group believe that it may be possible in the future to program Cas1 and Cas2 proteins with a DNA sequence that carries desired information, i.e., codes for a specific protein, then insert this DNA into the appropriate site in the genome of a human cell using additional Cas1 and Cas2 proteins.

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