According to a research published in the journal Nature, Scientists have, for the first time, used the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology to insert genes that allow immune cells to attack cancer cells, potentially leaving normal cells unharmed and increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy.
- CRISPR is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which is a reference to the clustered and repetitive sequences of DNA found in bacteria, whose natural mechanism to fight some viral diseases is replicated in this gene-editing tool.
- Its mechanism is often compared to the ‘cut-copy-paste’, or ‘find-replace’ functionalities in common computer programmes.
- A bad stretch in the DNA sequence, which is the cause of disease or disorder, is located, cut, and removed — and then replaced with a ‘correct’ sequence.
- And the tools used to achieve this are not mechanical, but biochemical — specific protein and RNA molecules.
- The technology replicates a natural defence mechanism in some bacteria that uses a similar method to protect itself from virus attacks.
What is CRISPR Cas-9 technology?
- The clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR/CRISPR associated protein 9 (Cas9) (CRISPR-Cas9) system has revolutionised genetic manipulations and made gene editing simpler, faster and easily accessible to most laboratories.
- CRISPR technology is basically a gene-editing technology that can be used for the purpose of altering genetic expression or changing the genome of an organism.
- The technology can be used for targeting specific stretches of an entire genetic code or editing the DNA at particular locations.
- CRISPR technology allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
- Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.
How it works?
- CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information.
- The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or NOTES “edited”, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand. A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself.
- Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.
- Using the tool, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.
- The CRISPR-Cas9 tool has already contributed to significant gains in crop resilience, altering their genetic code to better withstand drought and pests.
- The technology has also led to innovative cancer treatments, and many experts hope it could one day make inherited diseases curable through gene manipulation.