UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab scientists have expanded the CRISPR gene-editing toolkit with the addition of a new, compact CRISPR-associated (Cas) protein—the RNA-guided “scissors” that snip DNA—and a modification of the Cas9 protein to give it an “on” switch for better control.
Megaphages Discovered in Human Gut Bacteria
While sequencing gut bacteria from people in Bangladesh, Berkeley Lab’s Jillian Banfield discovered phages, viruses that infect and reproduce inside bacteria, twice as big as any previously found in humans. She and her colleagues found the snippets of megaphage DNA in a CRISPR segment of one type of bacteria, Prevotella, that is uncommon in people eating a high-fat, low-fiber Westernized diet. Banfield and her team named the clade of megaphages “Lak phage” after the Laksam Upazila area of Bangladesh where they were found.
Scientists Mining JGI’s Metagenomes Find Miniature Molecular Scissors
By mining JGI’s massive database of microbial genomes and metagenomes, a team led by researchers at UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab has identified a new family of CRISPR-associated (Cas) enzymes found in an ancient branch of the microbial tree of life. Just one-third the size of the seminal Cas9 protein – the business end of the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 – the new enzymes, dubbed Cas14, are the smallest functional CRISPR system discovered to date. Owing to its compact size and single-stranded DNA cutting activity, Cas14 may improve rapid CRISPR-based diagnostic systems now under development for infectious diseases, genetic mutations, and cancer.
Biosciences Scientists Featured in The New Yorker
Biosciences scientists Héctor García Martín, Jay Keasling, and Jill Banfield (whose primary affiliation is with the Earth & Environmental Sciences Area) were mentioned an article by Amia Srinivasan entitled “What Termites Can Teach Us” published in The New Yorker. Read the article.
Banfield Elected to the Royal Society
Jillian Banfield, faculty scientist in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area with a secondary appointment in the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division, has been elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society. She is among fifty scientists who were selected for this honor in recognition of their exceptional contributions to science. Banfield, who is also a professor at UC Berkeley, studies the structure, functioning and diversity of microbial communities in natural environments and the human microbiome. Read more in the Royal Society press release.
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