Our team has strived to make human practices the solid foundation of our project right from the start. We wanted to ensure we fully understood the implications of any project we chose to pursue while addressing current global problems.
We held a brainstorming session where we bounced ideas off of one another for potential project ideas and had narrowed it down to a top five. We decided we needed to consult with our immediate community to scope out what issues they deemed important that needed immediate addressing. Through different outreach opportunities, we were able to comprehend the controversy surrounding GMOs and genetic engineering in general. This caused us to critically analyze our project ideas before deciding upon ‘LuCAS’: a novel way of mRNA localization using CRISPR - dCas13a.
We were introduced to CRISPR-Cas9 as a tool for targeting cellular mRNA translation through Dr. Peter Ellis, a lecturer in Molecular Biology and Reproduction. However, through research, we discovered that Cas9 is a DNA endonuclease, meaning it recognizes DNA targets and cuts them. It would need to be ‘tricked’ by molecular means. C2C2, however, or Cas13a is an RNA endonuclease, meaning it cuts the RNA rather than the DNA. There are two key differences when comparing Cas13 to CAS9: Firstly, Cas13 recognizes RNA rather than DNA. Secondly, once the target is recognized, it acts promiscuously and starts to ‘chew up’ all of the RNA around it, not only the intended target sequence.
We wanted to utilize this knowledge and build upon the CRISPR-Cas9 and produce a tool that would just track the mRNA, not cut it. We did not want to overcomplicate our methodology and deemed tagging the mRNA with GFP would be sufficient as we would be able to essentially track the mRNA movement to ensure its localization without damaging its integrity through cutting it.