An ideal in vivo gene therapy platform provides safe, reprogrammable, and precise strategies which modulate cell and tissue gene regulatory networks with a high temporal and spatial resolution. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR), a bacterial adoptive immune system, and its CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9), have gained attention for the ability to target and modify DNA sequences on demand with unprecedented flexibility and precision. The precision and programmability of Cas9 is derived from its complexation with a guide-RNA (gRNA) that is complementary to a desired genomic sequence. CRISPR systems open-up widespread applications including genetic disease modeling, functional screens, and synthetic gene regulation. The plausibility of in vivo genetic engineering using CRISPR has garnered significant traction as a next generation in vivo therapeutic. However, there are hurdles that need to be addressed before CRISPR-based strategies are fully implemented. Some key issues center on the controllability of the CRISPR platform, including minimizing genomic-off target effects and maximizing in vivo gene editing efficiency, in vivo cellular delivery, and spatial-temporal regulation. The modifiable components of CRISPR systems: Cas9 protein, gRNA, delivery platform, and the form of CRISPR system delivered (DNA, RNA, or ribonucleoprotein) have recently been engineered independently to design a better genome engineering toolbox. This review focuses on evaluating CRISPR potential as a next generation in vivo gene therapy platform and discusses bioengineering advancements that can address challenges associated with clinical translation of this emerging technology.
Keywords: CRISPR; Cas9; clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; controllable CRISPR; gene editing; gene modulation,gRNA; gene therapy; safe CRISPR; synthetic biology.