The Daily Dose: Move over CRISPR, there’s a new sheriff in town

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CRISPR-Cas9 move over. There’s a new gene editing sheriff in town, albeit on a conditional basis. Like any new technology, it’s got a lot to prove, starting with safety. Still, apparently, safety may be one of its key selling points. According to Nature, “The alternative method, called prime editing, improves the chances that researchers will end up with only the edits they want, instead of a mix of changes that they can’t predict. The tool, described in a study published on 21 October in Nature1, also reduces the ‘off-target’ effects that are a key challenge for some applications of the standard CRISPR–Cas9 system. That could make prime-editing-based gene therapies safer for use in people.”

While we’re on the topic of CRISPR, gene editing, and safety, a Russian biologist has thrown caution to the wind and a deaf ear to potential critics. He has started editing genes with the ultimate goal of combating newborn deafness. As per Scientific American, “Russian biologist Denis Rebrikov has started gene editing in eggs donated by women who can hear to learn how to allow some deaf couples to give birth to children without the genetic mutation that impairs hearing.” The renegade scientist previously told Nature that he intended on creating genetically modified babies resistant to HIV infection. If you ask us, the genie is SO far out of the bottle, it’s better to just come up with a practical and safe way of moving forward.

Much to the surprise of scientists, pharmaceutical industry watchers, and patients involved in Biogen’s cancelled Alzheimer’s drug clinical trial, the company has unexpectedly decided to ask the Food and Drug Administration to approve aducanumab. People are wondering what happened for the company to do a literal 180.

As another group of scientists from the University of California choose to boycott science publishing behemouth Elsevier, an editorial in The Scientist has dispelled any misbegotten notion that it’ll do any good. “History suggests that Elsevier’s shareholders can hardly tell that thousands of academics have been boycotting them for years. In 2012, when the Cost of Knowledge boycott began, Elsevier’s adjusted operating profit was £780 million. Despite the petition accumulating more than 17,000 signatures, by 2018, Elsevier’s adjusted operating profit grew to £942 million.” On the other end of the parasite spectrum are predatory open access journals. We’ll just leave it at that.

IMAGE CREDIT: Creative Commons

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