CRISPR – CAS9 : genetic scissors – On Chemistry Nobel

GS 3 Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Introduction 

      The CRISPR (short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology for gene-editing (developed in 2012), makes gene sequencing very easy, simple and extremely efficient providing nearly endless possibilities.

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  • Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A Doudna of the USA have been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.

CRISPR Technology:

  • Locates the specific area in the genetic sequence which has been diagnosed to be the cause of the problem
  • cuts it out, and replaces it with a new
  • correct sequence that no longer causes the problem.

Importance:

  • can be used to change the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.
  • Had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences and contributes to new cancer therapies.

Applications:

  • The tool has enabled scientists to edit human DNA in a dish and early-stage clinical trials .
  • Are being attempted to use the tool to treat a few diseases, including inherited disorders/diseases and some types of cancer.
  • Has already contributed to significant gains in crop resilience, altering their genetic code to better withstand drought and pests.
  • In 2016 China began the first human clinical trial to treat an aggressive form of lung cancer by introducing cells that contain genes edited using CRISPR-Cas9
    • the use of the tool has so far been limited to curing genetic diseases in animal models.
  • A Chinese researcher used the tool to modify a particular gene in the embryo to make babies immune to HIV infection.

Concerns:

  • No guidelines have been drawn up so far.
    • there is a general consensus in the scientific and ethics communities that the gene-editing technique should not be used clinically on embryos.
  • Fear of a premature rush of the CRISPR system for therapeutic use still remains.
  • Studies have shown that cells edited from CRISPR-Cas9 can lead to cancer.
  • The risk of mutations in those cells elsewhere in the genome may increase.
  • Although the technique of CRISPR-Cas9 has been used widely to treat many disorders, what diseases or characteristics should be decided through genetic modification is still unknown.
  • The problem in this case, potential infection to HIV virus, already had other alternative solutions and treatments.
  • The gene-editing was probably done without any regulatory permission or oversight.
  • CRISPR technology wasn’t 100 per cent accurate, and it is possible that some other genes could also get altered by mistake.

Conclusion 

      The huge potential to edit genes using this tool has been used to create a large number of crop varieties with improved agronomic performance. The gene-editing tool has indeed taken “life sciences into a new epoch”.

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