Gene editing in the context of an increasingly complex genome

Kevin Blighe, Larry DeDionisio, Kathleen Christie, B Chawes, S Shareef, T Kakouli-Duarte, Connie Chao-Shern, V Harding, R S Kelly, J Stebbing, L Castellano, J A Lasky-Su, M. Andrew Nesbit, Tara C. B. Moore

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The reporting of the first draft of the human genome in 2000 brought with it much hope for the future in what was felt as a paradigm shift toward improved health outcomes. Indeed, we have now mapped the majority of variation across human populations with landmark projects such as 1000 Genomes; in cancer, we have catalogued mutations across the primary carcinomas; whilst, for other diseases, we have identified the genetic variants with strongest association. Despite this, we are still awaiting the genetic revolution in healthcare to materialise and translate itself into the health benefits for which we had hoped. A major problem we face relates to our underestimation of the complexity of the genome, and that of biological mechanisms, generally. Fixation on DNA sequence alone and a ‘rigid’ mode of thinking about the genome has meant that the folding and structure of the DNA molecule —and how these relate to regulation— have been underappreciated. Projects like ENCODE have additionally taught us that regulation at the level of RNA is just as important as that at the spatiotemporal level of chromatin.

In this review, we chart the course of the major advances in the biomedical sciences in the era pre- and post the release of the first draft sequence of the human genome, taking a focus on technology and how its development has influenced these. We additionally focus on gene editing via CRISPR/Cas9 as a key technique, in particular its use in the context of complex biological mechanisms. Our aim is to shift the mode of thinking about the genome to that which encompasses a greater appreciation of the folding of the DNA molecule, DNA- RNA/protein interactions, and how these regulate expression and elaborate disease mechanisms.

Through the composition of our work, we recognise that technological improvement is conducive to a greater understanding of biological processes and life within the cell. We believe we now have the technology at our disposal that permits a better understanding of disease mechanisms, achievable through integrative data analyses. Finally, only with greater understanding of disease mechanisms can techniques such as gene editing be faithfully conducted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595
Number of pages20
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number595
Early online date8 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished online - 8 Aug 2018


  • gene editing
  • genomic complexity
  • genome
  • transcriptome
  • epigenome
  • sequencing technology development
  • complex genetics
  • integrated omics


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