The gene-editing technology CRISPR could very well one day rid the world of its most devastating diseases, allowing us to simply edit away the genetic code responsible for an illness. One of the things standing in the way of turning that fantasy into reality, though, is the problem of off-target effects. Now Microsoft is hoping to use artificial intelligence to fix this problem…….
It works like this: If a scientist is planning to alter a specific gene, they enter its name into Elevation. The CRISPR system is made up of two parts, a protein that does the cutting and a synthetic guide RNA designed to match a DNA sequence in the gene they want to edit. Different guides can have different off-target effects depending on how they are used. Elevation will suggest which guide is least likely to result in off-target effects for a particular gene, using machine learning to figure it out. It also provides general feedback on how likely off-target effects are for the gene being targeted. The platform bases its learning both on Microsoft research and publicly available data about how different genetic targets and guides interact.