CRISPR_Technology & Pandemic 2020; in a nutshell
CRISPR will soon introduce us to a New World
So What does it mean?
CRISPR means Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. The term sounds quite complicated, but this Technology will soon introduce us to a new world in the coming years.
CRISPR is a genome-editing tool and works by coding for a specific gene sequence using guide RNA. The full-fledged application of this Technology can bring amazing transformations to this world.
What happens in this CRISPR mechanism?
In this Technology, scientists find an appropriate DNA sequence. A protein named Cas9 associated with this mechanism work as a pair of scissors that cuts the DNA at the desired location. Once there is a cut in the DNA, one can disable a particular gene, and you may even incorporate new genes of your choice.
Some of the laboratories have recently introduced this tool, but CRISPR has evolved generations ago in bacteria as a defense mechanism against bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are the type of viruses that incorporates their viral DNA into the bacterial DNA and then destroy that particular bacteria. The CRISPR mechanism that evolved in the bacteria years ago helped them to disable and kill the phages. Moreover, it acts as an acquired immunity for that particular bacteria.
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna received this year’s Nobel prize for developing the method for genome editing.
Two researchers named Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna even received this year’s Nobel prize in Chemistry for developing this method. Several other types of research are being carried out to use different Cas proteins in the CRISPR technology to enable different functions in the organisms.
This Technology has a wide variety of applications in the scientific research field. It can transform any organism. Companies have already introduced some of the CRISPR foods into the markets. This Technology has the potential to transform various medicines. Moreover, it is not only can treat but also to prevent several diseases like Cancer and many more.
This Technology even lets you edit the genomes of our children. Although such things are unethical today, China has attempted this in the recent past. Many scientists think that in the coming future this will benefit our children. Apart from these applications, CRISPR is also used for fingerprinting cells and also to create gene drives. There can be several other applications of this Technology, and we are yet to know about it with the advancement in research.
Recently, researchers of China have even tried to use CRISPR technology to treat a person infected with HIV. Even though that attempt has failed, it has opened the way for the researchers to treat other blood diseases like sickle-cell anemia using this Technology.
CRISPR and COVID-19:
Currently, COVID-19 has brought to the fore additional applications, most notably exploring how CRISPR can be used as a mechanism to develop non-gene based therapies. Using CRISPR, scientists have tried to inject B cells into patients. It provides them with the antibodies to an infection, such as COVID-19, without ever being exposed to the disease itself. However, the major drawback of this approach is that the limited studies conducted so far have only offered protection for a brief period. A recent Stanford study has also used CRISPR to target the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) directly and has been able to disable the disease at an RNA level. COVID-19 has highlighted the potential of CRISPR-based therapies to combat viral infections. It has also played an essential role in discovering gene editing to a broader audience.
However, this Technology is not without its criticism or concern. In this Technology, there is always a possibility of “off-target” mutations. There are many ethical issues related to gene editing as Technology and overall, it remains ubiquitous among policymakers. Increasing study and greater exposure to this technology will soon lessen. And these concerns and will be able to resolve several genetic disorders.