CRISPR Gene-Editing in squid is a milestone in biological research

Hyperaxion Aug 14, 2020

A team of scientists used CRISPR to create the first genetically modified squid. This breakthrough can help in the study of neurodegenerative diseases.

Squids are one of the most intelligent animals in the ocean, possessing one of the largest brains among invertebrates.

They also have a highly complex nervous system, which allows them to camouflage their bodies at the snap of a finger and communicate with each other using a wide range of signals.

CRISPR Gene-Editing in squid is a milestone in biological research
(Credit: Roger Hanlon / Marine Biological Laboratory).

Now, a group of researchers has created the first genetically modified squid using the CRISPR gene-editing tool. This will allow scientists to better understand the animal’s brain mechanisms.

Cephalopods are used to study neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

CRISPR-Cas9 squid hatchlings.
CRISPR-Cas9 squid hatchlings. (Credit: Karen Crawford)

Marine biologist Joshua Rosenthal, from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at the University of Chicago, believes that from now on we will see more neurobiologists using genetically edited organisms in their research.

Rosenthal and his team managed to make the squid transparent. “If you see the pigmentation go away, it’s easy to see if the gene editing is working,” Rosenthal explained.

The researchers used a species called Doryteuthis pealeii, which migrates to Cape Cod waters every spring. However, this species cannot survive long in the laboratory, as it becomes very large. In the future, the authors intend to use smaller species to facilitate their study.

Doryteuthis pealeii in the water. (Credit: Roger Hanlon).

They also want to use CRISPR to track the squid’s neural activity. They will do this by inserting a gene that generates a fluorescent protein that glows when the nervous system is activated.

“It would be nice to be able to look at the activity of those nerve cells, lots of them at a time to try to correlate behavior with activity,” Rosenthal said.

The results were recently published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

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