Astronauts show how CRISPR gene editing works in space

CRISPR gene editing is no longer limited to Earth. Astronaut Christina Koch and scientist successfully demonstrated CRISPR-Cas9 in space for the first time and used it as part of a new technique to damage DNA and study how it is repaired in microgravity. “Technical and safety concerns” have prevented earlier studies like this one, the researchers said.

The experiment produced a particularly harmful DNA double-strand break in a yeast cell culture on board the International Space Station. Koch completed the test well in advance (most shipments reached the ISS in May 2019), but the results weren’t available until last week.

The new approach paves the way for other research on DNA repair in space. With enough work, the scientists hope to be able to recreate the genetic damage caused by ionizing radiation, not to mention other effects of long-term space travel. This, in turn, could help NASA and other agencies develop technologies that protect astronauts and make space exploration practical. Chances are CRISPR will play an important role in getting people to Mars and beyond.

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