The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.
It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia.
The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but research is only starting.Prime editing is the latest advance in the field of gene editing, which is developing at an incredible pace.
Our DNA is the instruction manual for building and running our bodies. It is in nearly every one of our cells.
Being able to tweak DNA through gene editing is already transforming scientific research, promising to revolutionise medicine and asking deep moral and ethical questions after the creation of babies who were gene-edited to have protection from HIV.
How does prime editing work?
The study, in the journal Nature, used prime editing to accurately insert or delete sections of DNA; as well as correct typos in a single “letter” out of the three billion that make up the human genetic code.
One of the researchers, Dr David Liu, said: “You can think of prime editors to be like word processors, capable of searching for target DNA sequences and precisely replacing them.
“Prime editors offer more targeting flexibility and greater editing precision.”