Experts in CRISPR technology meet in Edinburgh to discuss how gene editing can change our future

 “We are entering the “genome re-writing” era”

Prof Bruce Whitelaw, from the Roslin Institute highlights the relevance of CRISPR technology in our daily lives.

  • To celebrate the V Anniversary of the Society of Spanish Researchers in the UK (SRUK,) the Scottish Constituency with the support of the Ramon Areces Foundation, held a symposium on CRISPR in Edinburgh.
  • This event brought together the discoverer of CRISPR, Prof. Francisco Martínez Mójica and other world experts in the technology: Prof. Bruce Whitelaw, Dr. Antonella Fidanza and Dr. Sarah Chan. They explained how CRISPR could help in different aspects of our daily lives, from biomedicine to agriculture, taking into consideration crucial ethical considerations of its use.

 

 

Edinburgh, April 8th, 2017. CRISPR, a genome editing technique described by the speakers as “the most precise and efficient genome-editing tool”, has revolutionised the way scientists work and its potential is not just confined to the laboratory. Its benefits have also been adapted to a vast range of applications related to our daily lives: from treating human diseases to confer resistance in livestock. Crucially, last year, UK scientists were granted permission to genetically modify human embryos for research and, the first CRISPR clinical trial to attack cancer cells started in the US. The symposium: “From Food to Babies: What CRISPR Can Do for You” was organised by the Scottish Constituency of SRUK as part of the V Anniversary Seminars of this Society and was mainly sponsored by the Ramón Areces Foundation. It brought together the discoverer of CRISPR technology: Prof. Francisco Martínez Mójica (University of Alicante, Spain) and other world-leading researchers in the field: Prof. Bruce Whitelaw (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh), Dr. Antonella Fidanza (MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine) and Dr. Sarah Chan (Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law, University of Edinburgh).

Prof. Martínez Mójica´s talk described the origins of CRISPR technology, explaining what sparked his passion for the unusual DNA sequences repeats present in bacteria. This led to the discovery of their immune system and to the development of a powerful technology that allows gene editing in heterologous organisms, from plant to humans. In Prof Mojica´s words, “this is a fantastic time to explore the applications and possibilities of CRISPR”. As a researcher, his advice is “to take risks in your research and follow your ideas, you will be rewarded”.

Afterwards, Prof. Whitelaw spoke about the applications of CRISPR technology in new global challenges affecting livestock. In an exciting talk, he explained how genome editing could be used to protect pigs from African swine fever or to maintain genetic variation. “CRISPR is going to transform the society in ways we can not even imagine” as we are entering the “genome re-writing” era.

The strategies to direct blood cell fate though gene expression using CRISPR was the focus of Dr. Fidanza´s talk. Then, Dr Chan discussed the insights of the ethics and policy regulations required to deal with genome editing of human embryos and where to draw the line between therapeutics and “genetic enhancement”.

This event finalised with a round table in which the speakers and attendees had the opportunity to discuss the applications and limitations of this new technology that allows genome editing in an extremely easy, efficient and cheap way.

“Ramón Areces” Foundation, the Spanish Embassy in London, the “Spanish Foundation of Science and Technology” (FECYT), Glasgow City of Science and VWR, supported this event held at the Institute of Genetic and Molecular Medicine (IGMM).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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