CRISPR is a very advanced gene-editing tool that will hopefully one day help eliminate some of the worst diseases in the world. It allows scientist to edit out pieces of the human genetic code that’s the cause of certain illnesses. The problem at the moment is that it’s not incredibly accurate. However, Microsoft techies are hoping that artificial intelligence (AI) can help solve that.
CRISPR is more precise than any earlier gene-editing technologies. But there are still improvements that need to be made before its a tool we can trust enough to use on an everyday basis. Sometimes CRISPR accidentally edits DNA it isn’t supposed to, which can have devastating consequences for the patient involved. While many scientists have looked at how this process can be improved, none have been successful so far.
Multinational technology giant, Microsoft believes that the answer to these problems is AI. One of the company’s AI projects is a tool called Elevation. It’s used to predict off-target effects when genes are being edited using CRISPR. When a specific gene needs to be altered, the scientists must enter its name into Elevation. The AI system will then suggest what type of RNA guide is least likely to produce off-target effects for the gene in question.
It does this through the use of machine learning (ML), a separate branch of AI.
The AI system also provides general feedback as to how likely off-target effects are for the gene being looked at. Being based on both Microsoft research and data relating to how different guides and their genetic targets interact, the AI system is an accurate tool that shows very promising results. For researchers wanting a closer look, the tool is publicly available and free to use. It’s paired with a Microsoft tool that can predict on-target effects called Azimuth.
It’s no secret that CRISPR, as accurate as it is, still has a long way to go before it’s flaw-free. But, with the help of Microsoft’s new AI system, it may certainly be at least one step closer. Over the past 12 months, Microsoft has really pumped up its efforts in regards to using AI as a solution to various problems. And that’s a trend that’s likely to continue for quite some time as we all move into a new technological era focused around AI.