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3D print of CRISPR Cas13a printed in full-color sandstone created from PDB ID: 5XWP.
Cas13a is colored turquoise and tinted according to the protein's bFactor, or atomic temperature. The darker regions of Cas13a are the coolest, and the brightest the warmest. Colored yellow is the target RNA and red is the Guide RNA.
CRISPR is a family of genome editing proteins that evolved in bacteria and archaea to combat viral infections. CRISPR captures portions of infected viral DNA and cuts out specific portions to save as a guide to find viral DNA should the virus ever infect the host cell again. For millions of years, bacteria and viruses have been locked in an evolutionary arms race. Viruses evolving new mechanisms to evade CRISPR, and CRISPR evolving to find different ways of preventing re-infection. CRISPR Cas13a is one such permutation. While other CRISPRs like Cas9 scan genes for viral DNA, Cas13a looks for viral RNA in the cytoplasm.