Few developments have rocked the biotechnology world or generated as much buzz as the discovery of CRISPR-Cas systems, a breakthrough in gene editing recognized in 2020 with a Nobel Prize. But these systems that naturally occur in bacteria are limited because they can make only small tweaks to genes. In recent years, scientists discovered a different system in bacteria that might lead to even more powerful methods for gene editing, given its unique ability to insert genes or whole sections of DNA in a genome.
New research from The University of Texas at Austin dramatically expands the number of naturally occurring versions of this system, giving researchers a wealth of potential new tools for large-scale gene editing.
Other scientists had identified clusters of genes that use CRISPR to insert themselves into different places in an organism’s genome, dubbed CRISPR-associated transposons (CASTs). Earlier work has shown they can be used to add an entire gene or large DNA sequence to the genome, at least for bacteria.