Gene therapy and transgenic research have advanced quickly in recent years due to the development of CRISPR technology. The rapid development of CRISPR technology has been largely benefited by chemical engineering. Firstly, chemical or synthetic substance enables spatiotemporal and conditional control of Cas9 or dCas9 activities. It prevents the leaky expression of CRISPR components, as well as minimizes toxicity and off-target effects. Multi-input logic operations and complex genetic circuits can also be implemented via multiplexed and orthogonal regulation of target genes. Secondly, rational chemical modifications to the sgRNA enhance gene editing efficiency and specificity by improving sgRNA stability and binding affinity to on-target genomic loci, and hence reducing off-target mismatches and systemic immunogenicity. Chemically-modified Cas9 mRNA is also more active and less immunogenic than the native mRNA. Thirdly, nonviral vehicles can circumvent the challenges associated with viral packaging and production through the delivery of Cas9-sgRNA ribonucleoprotein complex or large Cas9 expression plasmids. Multi-functional nanovectors enhance genome editing in vivo by overcoming multiple physiological barriers, enabling ligand-targeted cellular uptake, and blood-brain barrier crossing. Chemical engineering can also facilitate viral-based delivery by improving vector internalization, allowing tissue-specific transgene expression, and preventing inactivation of the viral vectors in vivo. This review aims to discuss how chemical engineering has helped improve existing CRISPR applications and enable new technologies for biomedical research. The usefulness, advantages, and molecular action for each chemical engineering approach are also highlighted.
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