By Michael Le Page
Does the CRISPR gene-editing method cause hundreds of extra, unwanted mutations? That’s the question raised by a small study in mice.
The idea of gene editing is to alter a single DNA sequence in the genome of cells while leaving the rest untouched. However, in practice, every gene-editing method sometimes results in unwanted changes.
This is not necessarily a problem if the rate of unwanted changes is low, as most mutations have no effect. But mutations in certain genes can lead to cancer, so the safety of CRISPR depends on how often it makes these off-target mutations.
Most studies have found few if any unwanted mutations with CRISPR. However, almost all of these studies looked for off-target changes by predicting what these were likely to be, and then seeing if they could find them.
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