Astronauts show CRISPR / Cas9 genome editing in space

The advent of CRISPR / Cas9, a revolutionary genome editing method, opens up new possibilities

treatment of diseases has caused serious ethicalquestions and earned the Nobel Prize. Now CRISPR-assisted genome editing has been successfully demonstrated in space as part of the Genes in Space program, a collaboration between professional scientists and teenage students.

The experiment was developed by miniPCR bio,by the life sciences company along with aerospace giant Boeing, and conducted on yeast cells by astronauts Christine Koch, Nick Haig and David Saint-Jacques during their expedition to the ISS.

Before being sent to the ISS, scientists modified the workCRISPR / Cas9 in such a way that the genomic editor began to make predictable breaks in the double strand of DNA in specific regions of the genome, which simplified the observation of the process of repairing such mutations.

Scientists aboard the ISS in microgravitysplit the DNA with gene editing tools and then watched it rebuild. The process of repairing the DNA double helix as a whole proceeded according to the same principles both in weightlessness and in the presence of an attractive force. This casts doubt on the theories of many biologists, who have suggested in the past that being in zero gravity can markedly impair the ability of cells to correct such mutations.

NASA astronaut Christina Kok performs an experimental procedure aboard the International Space Station. Credit: Sebastian Kraves

In the near future, scientists plan to conductother experiments with CRISPR / Cas9 aboard the ISS. The scientists hope that these experiments will help them understand whether the work of DNA repair systems will change during longer missions into space, as well as reveal possible differences in the work of genome editors on Earth and in its orbit.

Damage to the body's DNA can occur duringduring normal biological processes or as a result of environmental influences such as ultraviolet radiation. In humans and other animals, damaged DNA can lead to cancer. However, cells have several different natural strategies to repair damaged DNA. Astronauts traveling outside Earth's protective atmosphere face an increased risk of DNA damage due to ionizing radiation entering space.

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