Researchers aboard the ISS have announced the first successful use in space for a new technique for studying DNA repair in yeast. Astronauts aboard the space station have demonstrated a successful CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing method. An organism can suffer damaged DNA occurring during normal biological processes or as the result of environmental causes.
In both humans and animals, damaged DNA can lead to cancer. However, there are multiple natural strategies inside cells that allow damaged DNA to be repaired. NASA is working hard on studying DNA repair in space because astronauts traveling outside of the atmosphere have an increased risk of DNA damage due to ionizing radiation.
Until now, technological and safety obstacles have limited research into the issue. Now astronauts aboard the ISS have developed a new method for studying DNA repair in yeast cells that can be conducted completely in space. The process uses CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to create precise damage in DNA strands to allow DNA repair mechanisms to be observed.
The technique allows the DNA repair mechanisms to be observed in better detail than is possible with non-specific damage using radiation or other sources. This particular technique focuses on DNA damage known as double-strand break, which is a particularly harmful type. Scientists hope the new technique will enable extensive research into DNA repair aboard the ISS.
This marks the first time that successful CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing has been conducted in space and the first time that live cells have undergone a successful transformation. Transformation is the incorporation of genetic material originating from outside the organism. Researchers hope that future work could refine the method to better mimic the complex DNA damage sustained from ionizing radiation and other biology topics related to long-term space travel and radiation exposure.