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Local researchers address obstacles hindering use of molecular scissors in medicine

Local researchers address obstacles hindering use of molecular scissors in medicine

The limitless potential of molecular scissors
– as the name itself implies they’re used to cut DNA for intended gene targets- well,
their potential in the realm of medicine is enormous… opening doors to new treatment
methods for incurable, chronic and degenerative diseases. For this week’s IT and Science Front segment,
our science correspondent Kim Ji-yeon looks into local researchers that have made efforts
to turn this into reality. Treatment using molecular scissors involves
taking out nocuous DNA and then inserting the edited DNA back into the host’s body. Theoretically, the method is expected to be
more effective than current treatments in that it could be used to prevent the occurrence
of diseases before they progress and remove the source of the disease instead of tackling
the symptoms. However, many hurdles currently exist to apply
the method in reality. One of the obstacles involves verifying whether
a hazardous DNA has been completely removed and correctly inserted in the host’s body
after it’s been edited using the molecular scissors method. To address this issue, a local team of researchers
developed a procedure to effectively evaluate the activity of molecular scissors by profiling
11-thousand target sequences and coming up with algorithms that could predict the effectiveness
of new DNA sequences. “The technology is expected to reduce the
time and cost of verifying the effectiveness of molecular scissors used in research.” Traditionally, it took a researcher almost
a week to look into less than 20 targeted DNA. Also, the costs to carry out the verification
process has not been cheap. It usually costs around ten-thousand U.S.
dollars to verify the effectiveness of several hundred types of edited DNA. To prove the effectiveness of the molecular
scissors, researchers would have to survey several thousands of DNA to validate their
performance. “We were able to develop a library of guide
RNA and target sequence pairs of more than 11-thousand DNA sequences during the past
year. Using the library, we can verify the effectiveness
of the molecular scissors in one single try,… reducing costs by more than one-hundredth
its original costs.” Another team of researchers at local biotech
firm ToolGen… addresses the issue of realizing the potential of molecular scissors in medicine…
by providing quality experimental subjects… specifically, genetically edited rats. The rats are different from the currently
widely used experimental mice in that their genes have been edited using molecular scissors
and not the previous methods that use stem cell research, which can take up to four years. Using molecular scissors, it takes less than
four months. Also, it costs less than one-fifth of what
it takes with previous methods. “The rats are bigger in size than experimental
mice, making it easier to take MRI or CT images to check physiological reactions. Researchers can draw from the rats several
times whereas, the experimental mice die after one blood-gathering.” ToolGen plans to commercialize its genetically
edited rats starting next year and expand types of experimental subjects using other
animal species in the near future. Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.

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