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New cell line lets researchers use CRISPR to reversibly switch off genes

Published in Tech News.

‘CRISPR interference’ technique enables study of basic cell biology and disease in human stem cells

The gene-editing technique known as CRISPR has become the darling of the laboratory world, most recently garnering its discoverers a Nobel Prize. The method is also taking early steps into the clinic as the basis for experimental gene therapies, for example, for a genetic form of blindness.

Several years ago, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, debuted a variation of CRISPR that lets scientists switch off — and back on — specific genes. Dubbed CRISPR interference, or CRISPRi, this technique is different from classic CRISPR in that it’s temporary and reversible — no permanent changes are made to the DNA.

Now, one of CRISPRi’s creators, UCSF researcher Martin Kampmann, Ph.D., has teamed up with researchers from the Allen Institute for Cell Science, a division of the Allen Institute, to release a human stem cell line that contains CRISPRi for dialing down the activity of different genes. This publicly available cell line was made by gene-editing human induced pluripotent stem cells, naïve adult human cells with the potential to give rise to many other kinds of tissues, and will allow any research lab to use the technique for their own discoveries.