The CRISPR Journal, a groundbreaking new peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, announces the publication of its inaugural issue. The issue features an exciting array of cutting-edge international original research papers as well as a compelling mixture of frontmatter content from luminaries in the field of CRISPR technology, including Rodolphe Barrangou, who also serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Fyodor Urnov, Qin Liu, Francisco Mojica, Eduard Akhunov, Luke Wiley, and Jacob Sherkow, among others. The complete first issue of The CRISPR Journal is available to read on the Journal website.

“This is obviously a very momentous time for the field, and this inaugural issue fittingly captures its breadth and depth, spanning plant editing, gene drives, and therapeutic applications, as well as an IP landscape review and historical insight into the genome editing revolution” says Barrangou, PhD, Editor-in-Chief The CRISPR Journal and associate professor, North Carolina State University. “The cover illustrates the ceremonial ribbon cutting in a relevant manner, and our content showcases our commitment to a diverse readership.”  

While CRISPR has become almost synonymous with genome editing technology, it is important to remember that there were several other robust genome editing technologies, including zinc fingers and TALENs, developed before the application of CRISPR to gene editing in 2012-13. In a beautifully written, informative, colorful, and compelling review article titled “Genome Editing B.C. (Before CRISPR): Lasting Lessons from the ‘Old Testament’,” Fyodor Urnov, Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences (Seattle, WA), presents the essential timeline of advances in basic research of DNA repair, using a Noah’s Ark of model organisms, that have already enabled one version of genome editing to enter the clinic in the United States.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Harvard Medical School, MA) led by Qin Liu report progress in developing a method to specifically target the mutant copy of a gene responsible for a dominantly inherited form of retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a hereditary condition that affects 1 in 3,500 people. In the article “Allele-Specific CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing of the Single-Base P23H Mutation for Rhodopsin-Associated Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa,” the Harvard team describes a proof-of-concept in a mouse model of RP in which they successfully targeted the mutant rhodopsin gene, with beneficial physiological results.

Batten disease (juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis) is a rare recessive neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in several genes, the most severe of which is a gene called Battenin (CLN3). Progressively worsening symptoms include retinal degeneration, epilepsy, cognitive decline leading to premature death. In “CRISPR-Cas9-Mediated Correction of the 1.02 kb Common Deletion in CLN3 in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from Patients with Batten Disease,” Luke Wiley and co-authors at the Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research, University of Iowa report the successful use of CRISPR-Cas9 homology dependent repair of the most common CLN3 mutation in induced pluripotent stem cells from two Batten patients. These CRISPR-corrected isogenic cell lines, say the authors, represent “a powerful step towards treatment of the vision loss and thus extension of quality of life in individuals with Batten disease.”

There has been much discussion about the potential of CRISPR-based gene drives to tackle the vectors responsible for major infectious diseases such as malaria and Zika. With the notable exception of the woolly mammoth, less attention has been paid to the potential use of gene editing to help in conservation efforts around the world. As Ryan Phelan, Tom Maloney, and Ben Novak from the California non-profit Revive & Restore discuss in the Perspective “Advancing a New Toolkit for Conservation: From Science to Policy,” there are many interesting examples where CRISPR and gene editing could save endangered species, including the black-footed ferret and the Hawaiian honeycreeper.

“The debut issue of The CRISPR Journal features a wonderful breadth and overall quality that fully measures up to our hopes and expectations when we announced the Journal nine months ago,” said Kevin Davies, PhD, Executive Editor of The CRISPR Journal and Vice President of Strategic Development at Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. “From CRISPR patents to conservation, gene therapy to plant gene editing, immune responses to bioinformatics, and a stunning review on the history of genome editing ‘before CRISPR,’ we think the launch issue captures the excitement and importance of this remarkable field.”