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Digital illustration of DNA; painted blue on a darker blue background.

A study released last week suggests that the gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 may not be as precise as previously thought. Researchers found that in addition to small errors already known to be part of the gene editing process, CRISPR-Cas9 can cause large deletions and even rearrangements in genes around the target site.

The researchers looked at errors in mouse and human cells in lab conditions. In some cases, deletions were as large as several thousand DNA bases, enough to potentially alter the function of a cell. Whether the findings will affect CRISPR’s utility for clinical applications is not yet known. But researchers do expect increased scrutiny of the technology, and the scope of gene editing errors, going forward.

We spoke with one of the study’s authors, Michael Kosicki, to learn more about the discovery and its implications.

ResearchGate: What motivated this study?

Michael Kosicki: It was really serendipity. A control experiment for another study gave an unexpected result, and we decided to investigate. Initial results made it clear we were looking at something very exciting indeed, with implications for...