Apr 14, 2017

CRISPR gene tool can now test for diseases

Manuel Almagro Riva, Wikipedia

The gene-editing tool CRISPR can be used to rapidly diagnose infectious diseases, researchers show in a new study. They detected viruses like Zika and its close relative dengue, found cancer mutations and quickly spotted single genetic mutations.

Why it matters: The method is faster, cheaper and better than existing ones.

How it works: CRISPR is based on a defense system used by bacteria. It deploys an enzyme that scans a cell's genome to find a particular DNA sequence then snips it, allowing the sequence to then be tinkered with by changing or adding the molecules that form a genetic code. Feng Zhang and his colleagues have now shown that the same technique can be used to test saliva, blood, and other body fluids for the presence of genetic material from viruses and bacteria with a million times more sensitivity than today's most common diagnostic tool.

What to expect next: Commercialization. CRISPR-anything is big business. Venture capital firms, pharmaceutical companies and public stock offerings have already injected a billion dollars into companies harnessing the technology to engineer drugs, speed up livestock breeding, and create disease resistant crops. CRISPR diagnostic tools are likely to clear regulatory hurdles and make their way to market before more controversial gene-editing technologies.

Big picture: Walter Isaacson talked to Axios about the morality of it all.

Go deeper

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day — sign up for our alerts.

Energy deputy secretary nominee in hot water after contradicting Trump

Mark Menezes speaks at a forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 12. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Trump administration officials are internally raising concerns about President Trump’s nominee for Energy deputy secretary, who appeared to openly contradict the president on nuclear waste storage at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain last week.

Driving the news: While speaking at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing last Wednesday, Mark Menezes told members of the panel that the Trump administration is still interested in storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and that “what we're trying to do is to put together a process that will give us a path to permanent storage at Yucca."

Exclusive: Pompeo says new China media restrictions "long overdue"

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The State Department announced Tuesday that it has designated five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions," meaning that they will be treated as arms of the Chinese government.

Driving the news: In his first public statement on the new designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Axios that the five outlets are "clearly controlled by the [Chinese Communist Party], and we are simply recognizing that fact by taking this action.”

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World