Chinese scientists have succeeded in recombining the chromosomes of a mouse to create the world’s first mammal with completely reprogrammed genes.
Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing broke down the chromosomes into different segments and rearranged them into different combinations to create a new gene package, resulting in the mouse called “Xiao Zhu” (Little Bamboo).
The article, published in the academic journal Science Thursday revealed that the research team had accomplished the first-ever gene editing in mammals on a scale as large as chromosomes.
Chromosomes, which hold DNA in the nuclei of a cell, separate and recombine naturally through a complicated and delicate process. In the past, humans were only able to replicate the process in the lab with single-celled organisms like yeast.
“Mammalian genomes are much more complex than yeast genomes, and complete chromosomal rearrangements in mammals have remained unsuccessful,” said Li Wei, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Institute of Zoology. Chinese Academy of Sciences. quoted as saying.
Errors in such separation and fusion of chromosomes under natural conditions sometimes lead to cancer and other serious conditions.
When Li and his colleagues manipulated the chromosomes by sewing together two very long pieces of a chromosome, they also made mistakes that resulted in either the deaths of the mice produced or specimens showing deformities or odd behaviors.
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Using shorter chromosomes and reducing the total number of chromosomes from 20 pairs to 19 allowed them to create a new karyotype in mice that appeared healthy and normal despite having completely different chromosomes than mice in the wild. .
“For the first time in the world, we have achieved complete chromosome rearrangement in mammals, making a new breakthrough in synthetic biology,” Li said. “This research is a breakthrough in bioengineering technology, helping to understand the impact of large-scale remodeling of mammalian chromosomes and better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying growth and development, the evolution of reproduction and even the creation of a species. ”
The reprogrammed mice were able to mate and have offspring with normal mice, suggesting that artificial changes may be passed down from generation to generation.
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The mice, however, bred at a much lower rate than standard laboratory mice due to an abnormality in the separation of chromosomes after alignment.
According to the scientists, their breakthrough could potentially lead to cures for conditions such as infertility and diseases like cancer, because it allows researchers to observe and control chromosomes in mammalian cells.
In 2018, Associate Professor of South China University of Science and Technology (SUSTC) He Jiankui has drawn near-universal criticism for creating the world’s first genetically modified babies using CRISPR. He was released from prison in April this year after being convicted in January 2020 of willfully violating Chinese biomedical regulations.
Image selected via Sylvia