One of the more recent developments in genome editing is CRISPR-Cas9, which offers a more efficient, accurate, and economical way to edit genes. Besides its use in medicine and disease prevention, genome editing can transform the way we take care of the planet, grow our food, and more. In short, it’s a big deal and CRISPR-Cas9 is leading the charge in revolutionary gene modification.
Origins of CRISPR-Cas9
This gene editing technology was adapted from the natural genome editing process found in some bacteria. Scientists observed how these microorganisms created DNA segments by capturing the existing DNA from invading bacteria viruses. Those DNA segments are referred to as CRISPR arrays and they work as a sort of monitoring system for the microorganisms.
When the invading bacteria virus strikes again (or one that looks very similar), the microorganism can recognize it and produce RNA strands to combat it. The Cas9, or CRISPR-associated protein 9, can then cut the DNA apart to kill off the virus. Scientists have observed this process and now they can initiate those events under a microscope in the laboratory.
CRISPR-Cas9’s Role in Disease Prevention
One of the primary areas of interest for CRISPR researchers is medicine, naturally. Looking at genome editing in plant and animal cells can provide further insight into how specific diseases form and how they could be eradicated. While this kind of testing has yet to reach human subjects, the current research shows promising results for some of the most debilitating genetic disorders.
Studying gene function and its effects on DNA is not new but CRISPR-Cas9 paves the way for exciting new developments. The ability to create a new segment within an organism or in a cell can open up new clues about how genetic mutations occur and how to prevent them in the future.
In the past, scientists were limited since they could not tell where in the DNA mutation would occur — that is, until gene targeting came along. CRISPR-Cas9 and the use of lentiviral vectors by R&D labs, is a further advancement in the world of gene targeting.
Gene Targeting and Disease
Illnesses such as cancer and cystic fibrosis have genetic roots, making them prime candidates for CRISPR-Cas9 research. Experts have been looking at how genome editing works in non-reproductive cells and now a hot topic is whether or not they should delve into experiments involving reproductive cells.
The issue here is that edits made to these genes will have repercussions for future generations since these genes get passed down to offspring. Science and ethics have always clashed and this is yet another example.
A positive aspect here is that there are no ethical concerns involved with the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in non-reproductive cells. Therefore, further research might be able to provide additional insights into how CRISPR-Cas9 would work in human reproductive cells. Moreover, experiments with isolated human cells as well as animal models is currently going on and that could help scientists make greater gains in treating genetic disorders and diseases.
Today, CRISPR-Cas9 continues to be one of the most precise and efficient means of exploring the world of gene editing and it shows no signs of slowing down. Key companies in the field of genetic engineering are keeping a close eye on CRISPR-Cas9 achievements and growth and some have even launched their own CRISPR models and software, such as GEG Tech and its customizable CRISPR-Cas9 lentiviral vectors.
Another example would be Synthego Corporation who’ve introduced a CRISPR Analysis Software that is free to use. Their hope is to spur more growth and interest in genetic engineering and the global genome market. Even though the scientific community hasn’t delved too much into reproductive cell experimentation, there are great gains being made with CRISPR-Cas9 all the time.