Modulating the microbiome to treat disease, and employing sophisticated tools to ensure that CRISPR edits the right target. Hot topics to look for in 2018.  

Microbiome Effects in Treatment

The microbiome, and how it interacts with various aspects of health and disease, will continue to be a big focus. At the Society for Neuroscience conference in November, there was a lot of discussion about ketogenic diets and their effect on suppressing seizures and helping children with autism. Multiple groups were interested in the alteration of gut bacteria with a ketogenic diet and were starting to think about the microbiome’s role. It’s possible the microbiome can be modulated to enhance therapeutic effects across many diseases. Understanding the effects our microbiome is having to keep us healthy and/or make us sick is going to remain an area of interest. 

CRISPR Controls

The CRISPR/Cas system has put genome editing leaps and bounds ahead of where it was predicted to be a decade ago. Now that editing is becoming faster, cheaper and easier for researchers, the focus will shift from the ability to edit at target to the precision of only editing that target. Moving to somatic, and especially heritable, therapies force us to consider longer term consequences. Off target effects were considered before, but new areas of the genome editing field will play a significant role in defining precision editing. Mining the microbial genomes for anti-CRISPRs and molecular engineering Cas with built-in controls are just a few ways the field is looking into better control for these powerful tools. 

—Chris Dowdy, PhD, Genetically Engineered Models and Services