“Unexpected mutations after CRISPR-Cas9 editing in vivo” are most likely pre-existing sequence variants and not nuclease-induced mutations

Here we demonstrate that the simplest interpretation of Schaefer et al.’s data is that the two CRISPR-Cas9-treated mice are actually more closely related genetically to each other than to the control mouse. This strongly suggests that the so-called “unexpected mutations” simply represent SNPs and indels shared in common by these mice prior to nuclease treatment. In addition, given the genomic and sequence distribution profiles of these variants, we show that it is challenging to explain how CRISPR-Cas9 might be expected to induce such changes. Finally, we argue that the lack of appropriate controls in Schaefer et al.’s experimental design precludes assignment of causality to CRISPR-Cas9. Given these substantial issues, we urge Schaefer et al. to revise or re-state the original conclusions of their published work so as to avoid leaving misleading and unsupported statements to persist in the literature.

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