Over the last 3 years, the gene-editing technology with near unlimited potential has produced flawless results in clinical trials. India has approved a 5-year project to develop CRISPR to cure sickle cell anaemia.
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.
Ethical concerns –
There are concerns with manipulating human embryos for own interest. In 2018 in China, scientist He Jiankui caused an international scandal when he used CRISPR to create what he called the first gene-edited humans.