ZFN, TALEN, and CRISPR/Cas systems help scientists dissect
the vast amount of information accumulated through
the Genomic Revolution.
The Genomic Revolution has promised to advance medicine and biotechnology by providing scientists with enormous amounts of data that can be converted into useful information.
Over 10 years ago, the Human Genome Project produced the first draft of the more than 3 billion base pairs of DNA that make up the genetic code in each of our cells.
More recent efforts like the 1000 Genomes and HapMap Projects have since focused on identifying the differences within these billions of base pairs of DNA between individuals, while genome-wide association studies have pinpointed specific sequences that determine health and disease. The ENCODE Project and other studies have annotated chromatin states, regulatory elements, transcription factor binding sites, and other epigenetic states throughout the genome.
Dozens of other species have since undergone similar analyses, with the number of sequenced genomes continuously growing. Collectively, these efforts have generated an incredibly rich source of data that promises to aid our understanding of the function and evolution of any genome. However, until recently, scientists have been lacking the tools necessary to interrogate the structure and function of these elements.
While conventional genetic engineering methods could be used to add extra genes to cells, they cannot be easily used to modify the sequences or control the expression of genes that already exist within these genomes. These types of tools are necessary to determine not only the function of genes, but also the role of genetic variants and regulatory elements. They can also be used to overcome longstanding challenges in the field of gene therapy. Without these technologies, it has been difficult—and in some cases impossible—for scientists to capitalize on the Genomic Revolution.