Finding cures for infectious diseases including Ebola and Zika is being made simpler by using DNA screening libraries based on CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) genome-editing techniques. By discovering host genes essential for infection through CRISPR library screening, researchers can begin to design anti-viral treatments using identified genes as targets.
Many CRISPR libraries are “pooled.” While easy and inexpensive to produce, they are complex mixtures, which limits their usability for various applications. In arrayed libraries, on the other hand, each construct is individually handled. This enables more complex experiments and individual constructs can be accessed quickly for follow-up. But until now, producing arrayed libraries has required expensive, labor-intensive methods.
Cooperative research being done by Sandia National Laboratories and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is making use of an alternative method of assembly to produce arrayed CRISPR libraries at a fraction of the cost of standard methods. This new method starts with a pooled library and then separates or arrays the mixture into individual constructs using high-throughput robotic equipment. Using next-generation sequencing, the constructs are then decoded to build the formatted library.
UCLA has the computing power, robotic equipment, and know-how to use data for genome mining. Sandia brings a lot of knowledge about infectious diseases, next-generation sequencing, and validation of constructs.
In order to create a better way to utilize and access CRISPR technologies, the latest genome editing technique, UCLA and Sandia are producing arrayed libraries that will be made available to other research institutions. The first library set will be ready in December 2017. These high value collections of genomic tools will help advance research into the mechanism of infection as well as cancer and other diseases.
By creating and distributing more advanced, accurate, and cost-effective screening systems based on CRISPR gene editing technology, Sandia and UCLA will help researchers dramatically speed up and improve the quality of their research. Qualified research institutions will access these valuable libraries through the Molecular Screening Shared Resource at UCLA or the Biological Science and Technology Center at Sandia.
It is hoped that this will help scientists more quickly discover the mechanism of infection for different viruses, identify targeted genes, and develop cures for diseases. Research into cures for viral infections like Zika and Ebola, as well as genetic diseases, can all be accelerated, and advance medical science.