CRISPR hack transforms cells into data recorders

By Heidi Ledford

Researchers have harnessed the popular gene-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9 to turn DNA into a sensitive recording device that can document the duration and order of events within cells — and even erase and re-record information in the same genome.

The work, published in Science on 15 February1, joins a flock of other CRISPR-based cellular recorders that have emerged from research labs over the past few years. The hope is that such recorders could keep track of changes in gene expression, trace a cell’s individual family lineage or monitor shifts in environmental conditions.

“It’s clear that the genome has this enormous recording capacity,” says Jan Philipp Junker, a systems biologist at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin. “With CRISPR, we finally have the tools to use it.”

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