UCL Genetics Society Newsletter

By Connan Rodwell – Managing Editor

September 2021

Welcome to the first addition the UCL Genetics Society newsletter 2021/22!

Within this newsletter you’ll find the highlights and happenings of the society, which brings together all aspects of the genetics discipline for all to experience.

This monthly newsletter will condense all of the opportunities available to a genetics society member. You’ll find takes on the most inspiring parts of this expanding field, guidance to navigate the world of scientific literature and writing in your studies, opportunity to share your work with our members and an outlet to meet likeminded people.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Throughout the year we run a host of engaging events. Our journal club and workshops will bring you interactive forums to learn and discuss topics relevant to a well-rounded student and academic, such as our upcoming workshop on the experience of internships, run by our committee. Distinguished guest speakers will be offering lectures and seminars exclusive to our members, providing a chance to see genetics in the context of careers and industry.

Additionally, we wouldn’t be a society without bringing our members together for a range of social events! In person and on discord, you’ll get the opportunity to meet others sharing an interest in this amazing field.

You can expect all of this and more as a member of the society that’s growing with the same fervent as the discipline it tributes.

Follow our socials for society updates, and other genetic insights:

Or join us on Discord

WHAT’S ON SEPTEMBER

When And WhereEvent
22nd at 11am – Zoom
Find details here
Journal Club: internship experiences
Hosted by committee members, attendees will gain valuable knowledge and engage in discussion regarding internships in the genetic field.
23rd and 30th at 7pm Discord
Find details here
Discord social: Gaming edition
For our first online social event, join us for some group online games! Chat and get competitive on user-friendly games from our discord platform.
26th  – Under our Blog tabBlog post
Another engaging post will be posted on our website, for those interested in learning another example of genetics having remarkable impacts in the real world.
27th at 3pm – Zoom Seminar
“Extreme purifying selection against mutations in the human genome”      
Sign up here
Prof Adam Siepel
Exclusive seminar with a guest speaker researching computational and quantitative biology, in particular evolutionarily conserved genetic sequences. A free ticket is available for all members, not one to miss!
28th at 12pm – Gordon Square
From 1pm –  Grant Museum of Zoology  
Find details here
Tour of the zoology museum
Join us for a picnic and trip around the amazing Grant Museum of Zoology, and marvel at its multitude of specimens a stones-throw from the gates of UCL. Free tickets are available for all members (limited space, get them quick!).

GENETICS IN CONTEXT

In every addition of the newsletter, we will publish a piece of work relevant to genetics, by or regarding UCL affiliates. This can be anything from the far corners of the discipline, highlighting the exciting goings on of the field, and punditry surrounding it.

And we will be taking submissions! So if you have a piece of relevant work that you are comfortable to share, please share it with us below to see your work in our newsletter.

This month:

From sword to scalpel?  – the most compact genetic editing tool to date

By Connan Rodwell

The CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing (GE) tool dubbed ‘genetic scissors’ became a household name following the 2020 Nobel prize in chemistry awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their discovery. The promise of seemingly endless, accurate GE implications was a surge in power that happens rarely in any field of research. However, the size and prokaryotic nature of the commonly used CRISPR-associated-protein-9 (Cas9) has significantly limited its applications in many cell types. CasMINI (modified from Cas14/ Cas12f) could answer this question, offering a solution compatible in mammalian cells.

Researchers at Stanford Univerisity have become the first to develop a CRISPR not effective in human cells (99.9% of CRISPR’s) into a working system. CasMINI comprises of 529 amino acids compared to Cas9’s 1368. This renders this machinery compatible with a host of delivery techniques not available to previous systems, such as adeno-associated virus platforms (AAV packaging) or lipid nanoparticle delivery. This has major therapeutic implications, as it delivers specificity matching or exceeding the CRIPSR/Cas9 system with the ease of commonly used in-vitro techniques.

Senior author of the research Stanley Qui described the molecular apparatus to the Telegraph – “If people sometimes think of Cas9 as molecular scissors, here we created a Swiss knife containing multiple functions.”, going further to say “It is on our wish list that it will become a therapy to treat genetic diseases, to cure cancer, and to reverse organ degeneration.”.

So surely, in a GE world where size matters, the Stanford team have found the silver bullet? However, the red tape and ethical boundaries is moving at a snail’s pace compared to the technologies astronomical acceleration. So arguably, the bigger question isn’t what CRISPR/CasMINI is capable of, but rather how far it is allowed to reach.

Read the paper here

 Xu, X., Chemparathy, A., Zeng, L., Kempton, H.R., Shang, S., Nakamura, M. and Qi, L.S. (2021). Engineered miniature CRISPR-Cas system for mammalian genome regulation and editing. Molecular Cell.

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