Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bac­te­ria are ruth­less.

Some soil bac­te­ria have evolved tiny, but dead­ly in­jec­tion sys­tems that at­tach to in­sect cells, per­fo­rate them and re­lease tox­ins in­side — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Sci­en­tists, on the oth­er hand, want to lever­age that sys­tem to de­liv­er med­i­cines.

In a pa­per pub­lished Wednes­day in Na­ture, MIT CRISPR re­searcher Feng Zhang and his lab de­scribe how they en­gi­neered these sy­ringes made by bac­te­ria to de­liv­er po­ten­tial ther­a­pies like tox­ins that kill can­cer cells and gene ed­i­tors. With the help of an AI pro­gram, they de­vel­oped sy­ringes that can load pro­teins of their choice and se­lec­tive­ly tar­get hu­man cells.

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