CRISPR has been turning heads for a couple of years now and when i think about it, it’s actually going to be an important tool for shaping the future of our planet and the evolution of life. We already know about genes and that all living organisms have their own copies of genes embedded in a strand like structure called the DNA. You might be amazed to learn that this gene can be edited to produce difference types of living organisms cure several thousands of genetic diseases, cure dangerous infections like HIV and eradicate disease-causing pests from the world. This article is about CRISPR, the gene editing technology that can do much more than we humans could possibly imagine.
What is CRISPR?
CRISPR (clustered regularly inter spaced short palindromic repeats) is a family of DNA sequences found within the genomes of prokaryotic organisms such as bacteria and bacteria. These sequences are derived from DNA fragments from viruses that have previously infected the bacteria. It is used to detect and destroy DNA from similar viruses during next infections in the future. Hence these sequences play a key role in the antiviral defense system of bacteria’s.
Cas9 (or “CRISPR-associated 9”) is an enzyme that uses CRISPR sequences as a guide to recognize and cleave specific strands of DNA that are complementary to the CRISPR sequence. In order to better understand this imagine a scissor with a built-in GPS Chip here, the scissor is Cas9 and the built-in GPS Chip is CRISPR sequence. We’ll be using this analogy to make you understand the concept of gene editing in a better way. Cas9 enzymes together with CRISPR sequences form the basis of a technology known as CRISPR Cas9 that can be used to edit genes within organisms.
In order to use CRISPR Cas9 technology in organisms other than bacteria or archaea, RNA which is another type of nucleotide sequence similar to DNA except that it is single strand is used. By delivering the Cas9 nuclease complexed with a synthetic guide RNA (gRNA) into a cell, the cell’s genome can be cut at a desired place, allowing existing genes to be removed and/or new ones added.
It was discovered in the early 1990’s, a time when its use and future was unknown. CRISPR was used in biochemical researches several years after its discovery and now it has become one of the important weapons in our arsenal. It is cheap, precise, affordable and really powerful and is going to revolutionize our planet and determine the organisms with whom we are going to share it.
Uses of CRISPR
Six major uses of CRISPR Cas9 technology are as follows
#1 Curing genetic diseases like HCM (Hypertrophic Cardio myopathy), retinal degenerative diseases like Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and blood disorders like leukemia.
#2 Prevent blindness by making the gene responsible for genetic blinding conditions healthier. Diseases like Retinitus Pigmentosa, Coroido Remia, Con Dystrophy, Macular Degeneration can all be prevented and cured using CRISPR Cas9 technology.
#3. Curing infectious disease like AIDS, Human papilomavirus infection
#4 Prevent cancer’s like breast cancer, cancer of cervix, colorectal cancer and leukemia’s
#5 Produce new plants and crops like corn, tomatoes that are healthier and more nutritious.
#6 Eradicate world’s most dangerous insect, the mosquito by editing its gene so that it can no longer fly. Diseases like dengue, malaria, filariasis, chikungunya and all the these diseases can be prevented with CRISPR.
In countries like USA and Canada, researches on CRISPR Cas9 technology is going on under the supervision of FDA, but in other countries like China and India, the same technology is being used unethically. Imagine our next generation of genetically modified babies! CRISPR Cas9 is one of the biggest discoveries of mankind and our future depends on who is going to use it and how they are going to deploy it!
If you have time, and want to know more about CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology below is a beautiful video on Tedtalks.
What do you think about this article? have you heard about CRISPR earlier? Share your thoughts in the comments and share this article with all your loved ones.
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