Department of Molecular Genetics Thalassaemia, The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, 6 International Airport Avenue, 1683, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Designer nucleases are versatile tools for genome modification and therapy development and have gained widespread accessibility with the advent of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein (Cas) technology. Prokaryotic RNA-guided nucleases of CRISPR/Cas type, since first being adopted as editing tools in eukaryotic cells, have experienced rapid uptake and development. Diverse modes of delivery by viral and non-viral vectors and ongoing discovery and engineering of new CRISPR/Cas-type tools with alternative target site requirements, cleavage patterns and DNA- or RNA-specific action continue to expand the versatility of this family of nucleases. CRISPR/Cas-based molecules may also act without double-strand breaks as DNA base editors or even without single-stranded cleavage, be it as epigenetic regulators, transcription factors or RNA base editors, with further scope for discovery and development. For many potential therapeutic applications of CRISPR/Cas-type molecules and their derivatives, efficiencies still need to be improved and safety issues addressed, including those of preexisting immunity against Cas molecules, off-target activity and recombination and sequence alterations relating to double-strand-break events. This review gives a concise overview of current CRISPR/Cas tools, applications, concerns and trends.