Editing Genes in the Microbiome to Prevent Disease

A child with asthma faces a lifetime of difficult symptoms from a condition that cannot be cured. But a new theory of the disease offers the hope it can be prevented by changing the microbial environment inside the child’s body.

With the help of a $70 million grant from the Audacious Project, an initiative of TED, a new collaboration is forming between researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley to edit the genes of microbes in the gut and airways that play a role in the disease. It is the first step toward what researchers hope will become a new branch of medicine centered on the microbiome.

UCSF’s Sue Lynch, PhD, who directs the Benioff Center for Microbiome Medicine (BCMM), will use CRISPR-based gene editing tools customized for the task by some of the world’s premier gene editing scientists at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) – namely Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna, PhD, and microbiome specialist Jill Banfield, PhD, at UC Berkeley.

Their goal will be to perform precise edits to the genomes of microbial cells associated with asthma and move these modifications towards clinical trials in humans. What they learn will be applicable across the health spectrum.

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