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Genetic engineering articles from across Nature Portfolio

Genetic engineering is the act of modifying the genetic makeup of an organism. Modifications can be generated by methods such as gene targeting, nuclear transplantation, transfection of synthetic chromosomes or viral insertion. Selective breeding is not considered a form of genetic engineering.

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research on genetic engineering

Next generation synthetic memory via intercepting recombinase function

Memory is a basic tenet of intelligent biological systems. Here the authors engineered a programmable and expandable iteration of recombinase-based synthetic memory (interception) that functions post-translation, resulting in faster recombination.

  • Andrew E. Short
  • Corey J. Wilson

research on genetic engineering

Precise genome engineering in Pseudomonas using phage-encoded homologous recombination and the Cascade–Cas3 system

This protocol for universal and proficient Pseudomonas recombineering uses phage-encoded homologous recombination–Cas3 systems, including SacB counterselection and Cre site-specific recombinase for two- or three-step seamless genome modification.

  • Wentao Zheng
  • Yandong Xia

research on genetic engineering

One-step generation of tumor models by base editor multiplexing in adult stem cell-derived organoids

CRISPR base editing technologies can be used for disease modelling. Here the authors use various base editing tools to generate tumour models in human adult stem cell-derived hepatocyte, endometrial and intestinal organoids.

  • Maarten H. Geurts
  • Shashank Gandhi
  • Hans Clevers

research on genetic engineering

Chitinase of Trichoderma longibrachiatum for control of Aphis gossypii in cotton plants

  • Waheed Anwar
  • Karamat Ali Zohaib

research on genetic engineering

Complementarity-determining region clustering may cause CAR-T cell dysfunction

The challenge of designing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells for cancer therapy is not limited to finding targetable cellular proteins, but also in optimising the effector properties. Here authors show that single-chain variable fragment targeting moieties could unpredictably prompt spontaneous CAR-T cell activation via CAR clustering, which argues for empirical screening for tonic signalling.

  • Giulia Saronio
  • Magnus Essand

research on genetic engineering

High-efficiency transgene integration by homology-directed repair in human primary cells using DNA-PKcs inhibition

A small molecule enhances targeted gene integration at therapeutically relevant loci in human primary cells.

  • Sridhar Selvaraj
  • William N. Feist
  • Matthew H. Porteus


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research on genetic engineering

In vivo editing of blood stem cells

Breda et al. developed a method for gene editing bone marrow cells in vivo, circumventing the need for toxic conditioning regimens such as chemotherapy or radiation.

  • Michael Attwaters

research on genetic engineering

Efficient A-to-C base editing with high specificity

Generating A-to-C transversions in specific targets via base editing technology has been challenging. By fusing an evolved alkyladenine DNA glycosylase with an engineered adenine deaminase TadA-8e variant and nickase Cas9, we have developed A-to-C base editors that generate precise and efficient A-to-C transversions in cells and in mouse embryos, expanding the possible applications of base editing.

Transfection reflections: fit-for-purpose delivery of nucleic acids

Elfick and Wells-Holland promote a concerted effort to quantitatively characterize transfection methodologies.

  • Chris Wells-Holland
  • Alistair Elfick

research on genetic engineering

Phylogenetic grafting of bacterial red-type Rubisco to enhance green photosynthesis

Crystal structure-guided exchange of mobile elements from red algal Rubisco into a related bacterial Rubisco enabled us to identify amino acid substitutions that enhance carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) fixation. In tobacco plants, the improved Rubisco supported a two-fold increase in photosynthetic rates compared with plants producing wild-type bacterial Rubisco.

research on genetic engineering

CRISPR-free, strand-selective mitochondrial DNA base editing using a nickase

The fusion of a programmable transcription-activator-like effector (TALE) protein with a nickase, in conjunction with a deaminase, enables efficient and strand-selective DNA base editing. This approach has the potential to advance our understanding and treatment of diseases associated with mutations in the mitochondrial or nuclear genome.

research on genetic engineering

A gentler yield of ex vivo-edited T cells

Amphiphilic peptides can aid the delivery of CRISPR ribonucleoproteins into primary human lymphocytes at low toxicity, boosting editing yields with respect to the use of electroporation.

  • Julian Grünewald
  • Andrea Schmidts

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​Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering (also called genetic modification) is a process that uses laboratory-based technologies to alter the DNA makeup of an organism. This may involve changing a single base pair (A-T or C-G), deleting a region of DNA or adding a new segment of DNA. For example, genetic engineering may involve adding a gene from one species to an organism from a different species to produce a desired trait. Used in research and industry, genetic engineering has been applied to the production of cancer therapies, brewing yeasts, genetically modified plants and livestock, and more.

Genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has changed over the years, from cloning for analysis and laboratory use to truly synthetic biology for understanding and new biomedical capabilities.

Former Program Director, Genome Technology Program

Division of Genome Sciences

Journal of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

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Recognition of 7 genes signature (Cirrhosis Risk Score) in the diagnosed non-responders to DAAs therapy by intra-PBMCs nested HCV RNA PCR

Authors: Al-Shazly Gaber Mohamed Galal, Reham M. Dawood, Mostafa K. El Awady, Yasser Mohamed Mohamed El-Dessouky, Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel-Halim Mahmoud and Mohamed Darwish Ahmed Abd Alla

Technical comparison of MinIon and Illumina technologies for genotyping Chikungunya virus in clinical samples

Authors: Leandro Menezes de Souza, Isabelle Dias de Oliveira, Flávia Cristina Silva Sales, Antonio Charlys da Costa, Karoline Rodrigues Campos, Adriano Abbud, Juliana Mariotti Guerra, Cinthya dos Santos Cirqueira Borges, Carlos Pires Fernandes Júnior Takahashi and Leonardo José Tadeu de Araújo

Delineating the role of single-nucleotide polymorphism of CYP19 gene on aromatase activity in South Indian women with polycystic ovary syndrome

Authors: Pravesh Hegde, Shilpa S. Shetty, Prasanna Kumar Shetty, Lakshmi Manjeera, D. Prashanth Shetty and Suchetha Kumari

Early diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for gastric cancer: systems-level molecular basis of subsequent alterations in gastric mucosa from chronic atrophic gastritis to gastric cancer

Authors: Tamizh G. Selvan, Pavan Gollapalli, Santosh H. S. Kumar and Sudeep D. Ghate

Bio-diagnostic performances of microRNAs set related to DNA damage response pathway among hepatitis C virus-associated hepatocellular carcinoma patients

Authors: Sara M. Abdo, Wafaa Gh. Shousha, Amal Ahmed Mohamed, Mohamed Elshobaky, Mohamed Saleh and Mostafa Mohamed Abdelhamid Ali

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The genome editing revolution: review

Authors: Ahmad M. Khalil

Recent advancements in molecular marker-assisted selection and applications in plant breeding programmes

Authors: Nazarul Hasan, Sana Choudhary, Neha Naaz, Nidhi Sharma and Rafiul Amin Laskar

GABA A receptors: structure, function, pharmacology, and related disorders

Authors: Amr Ghit, Dina Assal, Ahmed S. Al-Shami and Diaa Eldin E. Hussein

Secondary metabolites and biodiversity of actinomycetes

Authors: Manal Selim Mohamed Selim, Sayeda Abdelrazek Abdelhamid and Sahar Saleh Mohamed

Biogenic nanoparticles: a comprehensive perspective in synthesis, characterization, application and its challenges

Authors: Sunita Patil and Rajkuberan Chandrasekaran

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About the Society

The Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) is a non‐profit organization, established in September 1971 by the Presidential Decree No. 2405 as the national authority responsible for science and technology in Egypt. In 1998, ASRT was reorganized by the Presidential Decree No. 377 that defined its mission, function and activities.

ASRT is the Egyptian house of expertise. It brings together outstanding Egyptian scientists and experts from universities, research institutions, private sector, NGOs, policymakers and prominent Egyptian scientists in Diaspora to deliberate country problems, propose and carry out scientific studies and future strategic basic plans to tackle these problems.

ASRT adopts a comprehensive plan for developing Egyptian science and technology to support relevant national ministries and research institutions in creating an integrated system of scientific research together for increasing the number of trained scientists in Egypt and giving science a leading role in the country's development and knowledge-based economy. ASRT is supporting the complete cycle of innovation. ASRT also promotes and encourages female and youth participation in science and technology and scientific leadership.

Aims and scope

Journal of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (JGEB)   is one of the scientific journals of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT). JGEB is produced in collaboration with the National Research Center (NRC).

JGEB is an international journal, which publishes original research articles, short communications and reviews in different fields of genetic engineering and biotechnology. The journal publishes articles in the fields of plant biotechnology, animal biotechnology, microbial biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, medical biotechnology, genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics. 

JGEB is devoted to publishing articles that advance knowledge and provide novel perspectives in genetic engineering and biotechnology. Submissions of appropriate manuscripts are welcomed. A wide and diverse audience of scientists is addressed.

About the Editor


Mahmoud M. Sakr, Editor-in-Chief

Mahmoud M. Sakr has been the President of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) since April 2014. He is working actively on restructuring of ASRT with great focus on STI indicators and policies, benchmarking of national research institutions, empowering of young researchers, science and society, establishment of national research networks, innovation clusters, knowledge and technological alliances (PPP), technological incubators, technology transfer and deepening of local manufacturing. He supervised the preparation and application of several technological roadmaps and strategic studies, and deeply involved in preparation of Egypt STI strategy 2030. Sakr had several National Positions such as Vice President of the Academy and Executive Director of Science and Technology Development Fund. He received three scientific Excellence prizes, got his PhD in Plant Biotechnology in 1995 and professorship in plant biotechnology in 2006.

In addition to being Head of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Division (which is equivalent to a Faculty Dean position) of the National Research Center, Professor Sakr was the Co-founder and Director of Center of Excellence for Advanced Sciences (Nobel project) in the National Research Center (from April 2006 to Dec 2009), he was also the Founder and Head of two research groups at National Research Center namely, Plant Molecular Genetics and Plant Transformation Research Groups. Recently he launched a national program named Wealth of Egypt. The aim of the program is the collect, characterize, preserve and protect national plant genetic recourses using up to date technology (DNA Barcoding).

Professor Sakr has held several international scientific positions. He has been the Secretary General of Arab Biotechnology Association, Federation of Arab Scientific Research Councils (FASRC) since 2009, Coordinator of Inter-Islamic Network of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology (COMSTECH), Coordinator of Agricultural Biotechnology Network, COMSATS (2008-2011), took an active part of the Regional executive committee of Middle East Science Fund (2008-2011) of Jordan, member of ESCWA Science and Technology Center BOD and member of BOD of Arab German Young Academy (AGYA) since it is establishment. Professor Sakr is also member in the Board of Trustees (BOT) of Egypt-Japan University (E-JUST), Zewail City and Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC), and member of several universities and research centres councils and supreme council of universities. He is a member of International committee for the selection of E-JUST President and Zewail City CEO.

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  • ISSN: 2090-5920 (electronic)

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  • Neurol Med Chir (Tokyo)
  • v.60(10); 2020 Oct

Historic Overview of Genetic Engineering Technologies for Human Gene Therapy

Ryota tamura1.

1 Department of Neurosurgery, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan

Masahiro TODA

The concepts of gene therapy were initially introduced during the 1960s. Since the early 1990s, more than 1900 clinical trials have been conducted for the treatment of genetic diseases and cancers mainly using viral vectors. Although a variety of methods have also been performed for the treatment of malignant gliomas, it has been difficult to target invasive glioma cells. To overcome this problem, immortalized neural stem cell (NSC) and a nonlytic, amphotropic retroviral replicating vector (RRV) have attracted attention for gene delivery to invasive glioma. Recently, genome editing technology targeting insertions at site-specific locations has advanced; in particular, the clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated-9 (CRISPR/Cas9) has been developed. Since 2015, more than 30 clinical trials have been conducted using genome editing technologies, and the results have shown the potential to achieve positive patient outcomes. Gene therapy using CRISPR technologies for the treatment of a wide range of diseases is expected to continuously advance well into the future.


Gene therapy is a therapeutic strategy using genetic engineering techniques to treat various diseases. 1 , 2) In the early 1960s, gene therapy first progressed with the development of recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology, 1) and was further developed using various genetic engineering tools, such as viral vectors. 3 – 5) More than 1900 clinical trials have been conducted with gene therapeutic approaches since the early 1990s. In these procedures, DNA is randomly inserted into the host genome using conventional genetic engineering tools. In the 2000s, genome editing tootls, including zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and the recently established clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated-9 (CRISPR/Cas9) technologies, were developed, which induce genome modifications at specific target sites. 5) Genome editing tools are efficient for intentional genetic engineering, which has led to the development of novel treatment strategies for a wide range of diseases, such as genetic diseases and cancers. Therefore, gene therapy has again became a major focus of medical research. However, because gene therapy involves changing the genetic background, it raises important ethical concerns. In this article, we review the brief history of gene therapy and the development of genetic engineering technologies.

History of Genetic Engineering Technologies

Ethical issues.

In 1968, the initial proof-of-concept of virus- mediated gene transfer was made by Rogers et al. 6) who showed that foreign genetic material could be transferred into cells by viruses. In the first human gene therapy experiment, Shope papilloma virus was transduced into two patients with genetic arginase deficiency, because Rogers et al. hypothesized that the Shope papilloma virus genome contained a gene that encodes arginase. However, this gene therapy produced little improvement in the arginase levels in the patients. 7) Sequencing of the Shope papilloma virus genome revealed that the virus genome did not contain an arginase gene. 7)

This experiment prompted public concerns about the risks and ethical issues of gene therapy. In 1972, Friedman et al. 8) proposed ethical standards for the clinical application of gene therapy to prevent premature application in human. However, in 1980, genetic engineering was unethically performed in patients with thalassemia without the approval of the institutional review board. 9) The patients’ bone marrow cells were harvested and returned into their bone marrow after transduction with the plasmid DNA containing an integrated b-globin gene. 9) This treatment showed no effects, and the experiments were regarded as morally dubious. The gene therapy report of the President's Commission in the United States, Splicing Life , emphasized the distinction between somatic and germline genome editing in humans, and between medical treatment and non-medical enhancement. 10) An altered gene inserted into sperm or egg cells (germ cells) would lead to changes not only in the individual receiving the treatment but also in their future offspring. Interventions aimed at enhancing “normal” people also are problematic because they might lead to attempts to make “perfect” human beings.

Beginning of gene therapy using viral vector

In 1980, only nonviral methods, such as microinjection and calcium-phosphate precipitation, were used for gene delivery. Nonviral methods showed some advantages compared with viral methods, such as large-scale production and low host immunogenicity. However, nonviral methods yielded lower levels of transfection and gene expression, resulting in limited therapeutic efficacy. 11) In 1989, the rDNA Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health proposed the first guidelines for the clinical trials of gene therapy. In 1990, retroviral infection, which is highly dependent on host cell cycle status, was first performed for the transduction of the neomycin resistance marker gene into tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes that were obtained from patients with metastatic melanoma. 3 , 4) Then, the lymphocytes were cultured in vitro and returned to the patients’ bodies. 3 , 4) The first Food and Drug Administration (FDA)- approved gene therapy using a retroviral vector was performed by Anderson et al. in 1990; the adenosine deaminase (ADA) gene was transduced into the white blood cells of a patient with ADA deficiency, resulting in temporary improvements in her immunity. 2 , 12)

First severe complications

A recombinant adenoviral (AV) vector was developed after advances in the use of the retroviral vector. In 1999, a clinical trial was performed for ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency. A ubiquitous DNA AV vector (Ad5) containing the OTC gene was delivered into the patient. Four days after administration, the patient died from multiple organ failure that was caused by a cytokine storm. 13 , 14) In 1999, of the 20 patients enrolled in two trials for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)-X1, T-cell leukemia was observed in five patients at 2–5.5 years after the treatment. Hematopoietic stem cells with a conventional, amphotropic, murine leukemia virus-based vector and a gibbon-ape leukemia virus-pseudotyped retrovirus were used for gene transduction in those trials. 15 , 16) Although four patients fully recovered after the treatment, one patient died 15 , 16) because oncogene activation was mediated by viral insertion. 15 , 16)

Development of viral vectors

Viral vectors continued to be crucial components in the manufacture of cell and gene therapy. Adeno- associated viral (AAV) vectors were applied for many genetic diseases including Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), and reverse lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD). In 2008, remarkable success was reported for LCA type II in phase I/II clinical trials. 17) LCA is a rare hereditary retinal degeneration disorder caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene (Retinoid Isomerohydrolase RPE65), which is highly expressed in the retinal pigment epithelium and encodes retinoid isomerase. 17) These trials confirm that RPE65 could be delivered into retinal pigment epithelial cells using recombinant AAV2/2 vectors, resulting in clinical benefits without adverse events. 17) Recently, the FDA approved voretigene neparvovec-rzyl (Luxturna, Spark Therapeutics, Philadelphia, PA, USA) for patients with LCA type II. Alipogene tiparvovec Glybera (uniQure, Lexington, MA, USA) is the first gene-therapy-based drug to reverse LPLD to be approved in Europe in 2012. The AAV1 vector delivers an intact LPL gene to the muscle cells. 18) To date, more than 200 clinical trials have been performed using AAV vectors for several genetic diseases, including spinal muscular atrophy, 19) retinal dystrophy, 20) and hemophilia. 21)

Retrovirus is still one of the mainstays of gene therapeutic approaches. Strimvelis (GlaxoSmithKline, London, UK) is an FDA-approved drug consisting of an autologous CD34 (+)-enriched cell population that includes a gammaretrovirus containing the ADA gene that was used as the first ex-vivo stem cell gene therapy in patients with SCID because of ADA deficiency. 22) Subsequently, retroviral vectors were often used for other genetic diseases, including X-SCID. 23)

Lentivirus belongs to a family of viruses that are responsible for diseases, such as aquired immunodeficiency syndrome caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes infection by inserting DNA into the genome of their host cells. 24) The lentivirus can infect non-dividing cells; therefore, it has a wider range of potential applications. Successful treatment of the patients with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy was demonstrated using a lentiviral vector with the deficient peroxisomal adenosine triphosphate–binding cassette D1. 25) Despite the use of a lentiviral vector with an internal viral long terminal repeat, no oncogene activation was observed. 25)

A timeline showing the history of scientific progress in gene therapy is highlighted in Table 1 .

ADA: adenosine deaminase, ALD: adrenoleukodystrophy, B-ALL: B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, CAR: chimeric antigen receptor-modified, DLBCL: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, GT: gene therapy, LCA: Leber’s congenital amaurosis, LPL: lipoprotein lipase deficiency, OTC: ornithine transcarbamylase, SCID: severe combined immunodeficiency, SMA: spinal muscular atrophy, TCR: T cell receptor, TIL: tumor infiltrating lymphocyte

Gene Therapeutic Strategies for Brain Tumor

A variety of studies were performed to apply gene therapy to malignant tumors. The concept of gene therapy for tumors is different from that for genetic diseases, in which new genes are added to a patient's cells to replace missing or malfunctioning genes. In malignant tumors, the breakthrough in gene therapeutic strategy involved designing suicide gene therapy, 26) which was first applied for malignant glioma in 1992. 26 , 27) The first clinical study was performed on 15 patients with malignant gliomas by Ram et al (phase I/II). 27) Stereotactic intratumoral injections of murine fibroblasts producing a replication-deficient retrovirus vector with a suicide gene (herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase [HSV-TK]) achieved anti-tumor activity in four patients through bystander killing effects. 27) Subsequently, various types of therapeutic genes have been used to treat malignant glioma. Suicide genes (cytosine deaminase [CD]), genes for immunomodulatory cytokines (interferon [IFN]-β, interleukin [IL]-12, granulocyte- macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF]), and genes for reprogramming (p53, and phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted from chromosome [PTEN]) have been applied to the treatment of malignant glioma using viral vectors. 28 , 29)

Recently, a nonlytic, amphotropic retroviral replicating vector (RRV) and immortalized human neural stem cell (NSC) line were used for gene delivery to invasive glioma. 30 – 32) In 2012, a nonlytic, amphotropic RRV called Toca 511 was developed for the delivery of a suicide gene (CD) to tumors. 32) A tumor-selective Toca 511 combined with a prodrug (Toca FC) was evaluated in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma in phase I clinical trial. 30) The complete response rate was 11.3% in 53 patients. 30) In addition, the sub-analysis of this clinical trial revealed that the objective response was 21.7% in the 23-patient phase III eligible subgroup. 33) However, in the recent phase III trial, treatment with Toca 511 and Toca FC did not improve overall survival compared with standard therapy in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma. A further combinational treatment strategy using programmed cell-death ligand 1 (PD-L1) checkpoint blockade delivered by TOCA-511 was evaluated in experimental models, which may lead to future clinical application. 34) Since 2010, intracranial administration of allogeneic NSCs containing CD gene (HB1.F3. CD) has been performed by a team at City of Hope. Autopsy specimens indicate the HB1.F3. CD migrates toward invaded tumor areas, suggesting a high tumor-trophic migratory capacity of NSCs. 31) No severe toxicities were observed in the trial. Generally, it is difficult to obtain NSCs derived from human embryonic or fetal tissue. The use of human embryos for research on embryonic stem cells is ethically controversial because it involves the destruction of human embryos, and the use of fetal tissue associated with abortion also raises ethical considerations. 35) Recently, the tumor-trophic migratory activity of NSCs derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) was shown using organotypic brain slice culture. 36) Moreover, hiPSC-derived NSCs with the HSV-TK suicide gene system demonstrated considerable therapeutic potential for the treatment of experimental glioma models. 36) Furthermore, iPSCs have the ability to overcome ethical and practical issues of NSCs in clinical application.

New Genetic Engineering Technologies for Gene Therapy

Genetic engineering technologies using viral vectors to randomly insert therapeutic genes into a host genome raised concerns about insertional mutagenesis and oncogene activation. Therefore, new technology to intentionally insert genes at site-specific locations was needed. Genome editing is a genetic engineering method that uses nucleases or molecular scissors to intentionally introduce alterations into the genome of living organisms. 6) As of 2015, three types of engineered nucleases have been used: ZFNs, TALENs, and CRISPR/Cas ( Table 2 ). 6)

CRISPR/Cas9: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated proteins 9, PAM: protospacer adjacent motif, TALENs: transcription activator-like effector nucleases, ZFNs: zinc finger nucleases

Genome editing tools

ZFNs are fusions of the nonspecific DNA cleavage domain of the Fok I restriction endonuclease and zinc-finger proteins that lead to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Zinc-finger domains recognize a trinucleotide DNA sequence ( Fig. 1 ). However, design and selection of zinc-finber arrays is difficult and time-consuming. 37)

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nmc-60-483-g1.jpg

Genome editing tools. Three types of genome editing tools including ZFNs, TALENs, and CRISPR/Cas9 are shown. ZFNs are hybrid proteins using zinc-finger arrays and the catalytic domain of FokI endonuclease. TALENs are hybrid proteins containing the TAL effector backbone and the catalytic domain of FokI endonuclease. The CRISPR/Cas9 system is composed of Cas9 endonuclease and sgRNA. Cas9: CRISPR-associated-9, CRISPR: clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats, sgRNA: single-guide RNA, TALENs: transcription activator-like effector nucleases, ZFNs: zinc-finger nucleases.

TALENs are fusions of the Fok I cleavage domain and DNA-binding domains derived from TALE proteins. TALEs have multiple 33–35 amino acid repeat domains that recognizes a single base pair, leading to the targeted DSBs, similar to ZFNs ( Fig. 1 ). 38)

The CRISPR/Cas9 system consists of Cas9 nuclease and two RNAs (CRISPR RNA [crRNA] and trans- activating CRISPR RNA [tracrRNA]). 39) The crRNA/tracrRNA complex (gRNA) induces the Cas9 nuclease and cleaves DNA upstream of a protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM, 5’-NGG-3’ for S. pyogenes ) ( Fig. 1 ). 40) Currently, Cas9 from S. pyogenes (SpCas9) is the most popular tool for genome editing. 40)

Critical issues in geneome editing

Several studies have demonstrated the off-target effects of Cas9/gRNA complexes. 41) It is important to select unique target sites without closely homologous sequences, resulting in minimum off-target effects. 42) Additionally, other CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tools were developed to mitigate off-target effects, including gRNA modifications (slightly truncated gRNAs with shorter regions of target complementarity <20 nucleotides) 43) and SpCas9 variants, such as Cas9 paired nickases (a Cas9 nickase mutant or dimeric Cas9 proteins combined with pairs of gRNAs). 44) The type I CRISPR-mediated distinct DNA cleavage (CRISPR/Cas3 system) was developed recently in Japan to decrease the risk of off-target effets. Cas3 triggered long-range deletions upstream of the PAM (5'-ARG). 45)

A confirmatory screening of off-target effects is necessary for ensuring the safe application of genome editing technologies. 46) Although off-target mutations in the genome, including the noncoding region, can be evaluated using whole genome sequencing, this method is expensive and time-consuming. With the development of unbiased genome-wide cell-based methods, GUIDE-seq (genome-wide, unbiased identification of DSBs enabled by sequencing) 47) and BLESS (direct in situ breaks labeling, enrichment on streptavidin; next-generation sequencing) 48) were developed to detect off-target cleavage sites, and these methods do not require high sequencing read counts.

Applications of Genome Editing Technologies

Gene therapy has in- vivo and ex- vivo strategies. For the in- vivo strategy, vectors containing therapeutic genes are directly delivered into the patients, and genetic modification occurs in situ . For the ex- vivo strategy, the harvested cells are modified by the appropriate gene delivery tools in vitro (e.g., recombinant viruses and genome editing technologies). The modified cells are then delivered back to the patient via autologous or allogeneic transplantation after the evaluation of off-target effects ( Fig. 2 ).

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is nmc-60-483-g2.jpg

In- vivo and ex- vivo strategies of gene therapy. In- vivo and ex- vivo gene transfer strategies are shown. For in- vivo gene transfer, genetic materials containing therapeutic genes, such as viral vectors, nanoparticles, and ribosomes, are delivered directly to the patient, and genetic modification occurs in situ . For ex- vivo gene transfer, the harvested cells are modified by the appropriate gene delivery tools in vitro (e.g., recombinant viruses genome editing technologies). The modified cells are then delivered back to the patient via autologous or allogeneic transplantation after the evaluation of off-target effects.

HIV-resistant T cells were established by ZFN- mediated disruption of the C-C chemokine receptor (CCR) 5 coreceptor for HIV-I, which is being evaluated as an ex- vivo modification in early-stage clinical trials. 49 , 50) Disruption of CCR5 using ZFNs was the first-in-human application of a genome editing tool. Regarding hematologic disorders, since 2016, clinical trials have attempted the knock-in of the factor IX gene using AAV/ZFN-mediated genome editing approach for patients with hemophilia B. 51)

In addition to these promising ongoing clinical trials for genetic diseases, CRISPR/Cas9 and TALEN technologies have improved the effect of cancer immunotherapy using genome-engineered T cells. Engineered T cells express synthetic receptors (chimeric antigen receptors, CARs) that can recognize epitopes on tumor cells. The FDA approved two CD19-targeting CAR-T-cell products for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. 52 , 53) Engineered CARs target many other antigens of blood cancers, including CD30 in Hodgkin's lymphoma as well as CD33, CD123, and FLT3 of acute myeloid leukemia. 54) Recent research has shown that Cas9-mediated PD-1 disruption in the CAR-T cells improved the anti-tumor effect observed in in- vitro and in- vivo experimental models, leading to the performance of a clinical trial. 55 , 56) All other ongoing clinical trials using genome-editing technologies are highlighted in Table 3 .

AAV: adeno-associated virus, CAR: chimeric antigen receptor, CRISPR/Cas9: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated 9 proteins, HIV: human immunodeficiency virus, HPV: human papillovirus, MPS: mucopolysaccharidosis, N/A: not available, PD-1: programmed cell death-1, TALEN: transcription activator-like effector nucleases, ZFN: zinc finger nucleases

Future Direction

Gene therapy has advanced treatments for patients with congenital diseases and cancers throughout recent decades by optimizating various types of vectors and the introduction of new techniques including genome editing tools. The CRISPR/Cas9 system is considered one of the most powerful tools for genetic engineering because of its high efficiency, low cost, and ease of use. CRISPR technologies have progressed and are expected to continuously advance. Although there are still many challenging obstacles to overcome to achieve safe clinical application, these methods provide the possibility of treatment for a wide variety of human diseases.


We thank Lisa Kreiner, PhD, from Edanz Group ( for editing a draft of this manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

The authors declare no conflicts of interest associated with this manuscript. This work was supported in part by grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) (18K19622 to M.T.). All authors have registered online Self-reported COI Disclosure Statement Forms through the website for JNS members.

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research on genetic engineering

New research into genetic mutations may pave the way for more effective gene therapies

Alex Nguyen Ba , University of Toronto

research on genetic engineering

Genetically engineered bacteria can detect cancer cells in a world-first experiment

Dan Worthley , South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute

research on genetic engineering

Promising assisted reproductive technologies come with ethical, legal and social challenges – a developmental biologist and a bioethicist discuss IVF, abortion and the mice with two dads

Keith Latham , Michigan State University and Mary Faith Marshall , University of Virginia

research on genetic engineering

Where have all the Luddites gone? Exploring what makes us human – and whether modern technology threatens to destroy it

Charles Barbour , Western Sydney University

research on genetic engineering

Kenya has lifted its ban on genetically modified crops: the risks and opportunities

Benard Odhiambo Oloo , Egerton University

research on genetic engineering

Genetically engineered bacteria make living materials for self-repairing walls and cleaning up pollution

Sara Molinari , Rice University

research on genetic engineering

Cotton breeders are using genetic insights to make this global crop more sustainable

Serina Taluja , Texas A&M University

research on genetic engineering

‘Jurassic World’ scientists still haven’t learned that just because you can doesn’t mean you should – real-world genetic engineers can learn from the cautionary tale

Andrew Maynard , Arizona State University

research on genetic engineering

Organs from genetically engineered pigs may help shorten the transplant wait list

David Kaczorowski , University of Pittsburgh

research on genetic engineering

What is bioengineered food? An agriculture expert explains

Kathleen Merrigan , Arizona State University

research on genetic engineering

Unlike the US, Europe is setting ambitious targets for producing more organic food

research on genetic engineering

How engineered bacteria could clean up oilsands pollution and mining waste

Vikramaditya G. Yadav , University of British Columbia

research on genetic engineering

Lab-grown embryos and human-monkey hybrids: Medical marvels or ethical missteps?

Sahotra Sarkar , The University of Texas at Austin

research on genetic engineering

Gene editing is revealing how corals respond to warming waters. It could transform how we manage our reefs

Dimitri Perrin , Queensland University of Technology ; Jacob Bradford , Queensland University of Technology ; Line K Bay , Australian Institute of Marine Science , and Phillip Cleves , Carnegie Institution for Science

research on genetic engineering

Here’s how scientists know the coronavirus came from bats and wasn’t made in a lab

Polly Hayes , University of Westminster

research on genetic engineering

There is no evidence that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory

Eric Muraille , Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

research on genetic engineering

Mysterious museum shows how humans have modified nature for themselves – with important consequences

Dominic Walker , Royal Holloway University of London

research on genetic engineering

The science and politics of genetically engineered salmon: 5 questions answered

Alison Van Eenennaam , University of California, Davis

research on genetic engineering

Organic farming with gene editing: An oxymoron or a tool for sustainable agriculture?

Rebecca Mackelprang , University of California, Berkeley

research on genetic engineering

The synthetic biology revolution is now – here’s what that means

Claudia Vickers , CSIRO and Ian Small , The University of Western Australia

Related Topics

  • Agriculture
  • Climate change
  • CRISPR/Cas9
  • Gene editing
  • Human embryos
  • Synthetic biology

Top contributors

research on genetic engineering

Strategic Professor in Palaeontology, Flinders University

research on genetic engineering

Executive Director, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Arizona State University

research on genetic engineering

Professor of Animal Science, Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Michigan State University

research on genetic engineering

Research Leader, Sport, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University

research on genetic engineering

CEO, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics

research on genetic engineering

Professor of Bioethics, University of Sydney

research on genetic engineering

Personal Chair in Synthetic Biological Engineering, The University of Edinburgh

research on genetic engineering

Professor of Biomedical Ethics, University of Virginia

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Professor of Advanced Technology Transitions, Arizona State University

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Adjunct associate, Flinders University

research on genetic engineering

Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Florida

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Professor of Ethics, Keele University

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Senior Research Fellow, Agroecological Futures, Coventry University

research on genetic engineering

Professor of Philosophy and Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin

research on genetic engineering

Gastroenterologist and cancer scientist, South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute

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  1. What Are the Different Types of Genetic Engineering?

    There are three types of human genetic engineering: somatic, germline and cloning. Somatic engineering adds genes to body cells. Germline engineering adds genes to human eggs, embryos or sperm, and cloning creates a copy of an organism.

  2. Why Are Thousands of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Taking Florida by Storm?

    In the middle of May of 2021, thousands of mosquito eggs hatched in the Florida Keys. They weren’t just any old mosquitoes, though; these perennial pests aren’t the summertime nuisances — and disease vectors — we know their siblings to be.

  3. What Is Genetic Manipulation?

    Genetic manipulation, also called genetic engineering, refers to the alteration of the genes of an organism. It involves manually adding new DNA to an organism to add new traits. Genetic engineering is performed by physically moving a gene ...

  4. Genetic engineering

    Latest Research and Reviews · Next generation synthetic memory via intercepting recombinase function · Precise genome engineering in Pseudomonas using phage-

  5. Genetic Engineering

    Genetic engineering (also called genetic modification) is a process that uses laboratory-based technologies to alter the DNA makeup of an

  6. Genetic engineering

    EU-funded researchers have developed innovative genetic reprogramming techniques to replace and repair brain cells, opening up novel therapeutic pathways to

  7. A Research on Genetic Engineering in Different Fields

    Genetic engineering also called genetic modification or genetic manipulation is through manipulation of an organism's genes using biotechnology.

  8. Research in Gene Therapy & Genetic Engineering

    Genetic engineering involves the use of recombinant DNA techniques to introduce new characteristics or traits. In medicine, the goal of gene therapy and genetic

  9. Journal of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

    JGEB is an international journal, which publishes original research articles, short communications and reviews in different fields of genetic engineering and

  10. Genetic engineering

    In research, GMOs are used to study gene function and expression through loss of function, gain of function, tracking and expression experiments. By knocking

  11. Genetic Engineering News, Research

    Genetic Engineering News and Research · Light-driven bacteria could be used to target and kill cancer cells · Bioengineered nanovesicles could improve cancer

  12. Genetic engineering of animals: Ethical issues, including welfare

    The majority of genetically engineered animals are still in the research phase, rather than actually in use for their intended applications, or commercially

  13. Historic Overview of Genetic Engineering Technologies for Human

    Therefore, gene therapy has again became a major focus of medical research. However, because gene therapy involves changing the genetic

  14. Genetic engineering

    A proof-of-concept study using bacteria shows cell therapy can detect