3. What is CRISPR? What are its current and potential applications? Discuss.
CRISPR क्या है? इसके वर्तमान और संभावित अनुप्रयोग क्या हैं? चर्चा करें।
In popular usage, “CRISPR” is shorthand for “CRISPR-Cas9.” CRISPRs are specialized stretches of DNA. The protein Cas9 is an enzyme that acts like a pair of molecular scissors, capable of cutting strands of DNA.
CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It 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.
Current applications of CRISPR
- Improving IVF – In 2016, a Swedish research team led by Fredrick Lanner edited DNA in healthy human embryos with CRISPR. Carrying out gene editing within human embryos could help to improve chances of pregnancy during IVF treatments. As well as benefitting IVF, scientists also hope to use CRISPR to reduce miscarriages.
- Antimicrobial and antiviral fields – Cas9 endonucleases, as molecular DNA scissors guided by gRNA, are now used to target and cut exogenous DNA arising from virus or plasmids.
- Breeding and reproduction – Strategies that use the CRISPR/Cas9 technique to improve the reproduction in swine are becoming popular.
- Immunization and xenotransplantation – The advancement of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique has greatly strengthened the ability to effectively manipulate porcine genome in order to evaluate and generate porcine organs that can assist in xenotransplantation.
- The technology had been used to functionally inactivate genes in human cell lines and cells, to modify yeasts used to make biofuels and to genetically modify crop strains.
- In July 2019, doctors in United States, used CRISPR to experimentally treat a patient with a genetic disorder. The patient was a 34-year-old woman with sickle cell disease.
Potential applications of CRISPR
- Extracting HIV – One of the greatest triumphs so far has been the successful removal of HIV from human immune cells. This is a major advancement in potential HIV treatment, as the virus is prone to re-infect victims. The method was shown to be safe for human cells, and could provide a more long term treatment for patients.
- Fighting cancer – Perhaps CRISPR’s most celebrated application is in detecting and treating cancer. Scientists are currently using the technique to explore the biology of cancerous brain tumors with the aim of producing specialised treatment. By picking apart cancer cells, researchers can decipher which genes are most important to the disease’s survival. In 2016, Chinese scientists began testing CRISPR edited immune cells in lung cancer sufferers. Results have yet to be released, but human trials herald good things for the fight.
- Making diseases self-destruct – At the University of Wisconsin Madison, food scientist Jan-Peter van Pijkeren is developing an antibiotic that makes pathogens ‘commit suicide’. Through a DNA slicing enzyme called Cas, CRISPR chops up the genes of invading bacterium. Then, a CRISPR laced bacteriophage (which infects bacteria) is inserted into the pathogen, rewiring it to destroy itself.
- Eliminating malaria – Various university teams are working on the elimination of malaria in mosquitos, in the hope of stopping human infection. Through CRISPR Cas 9, scientists can snip out genes that are vital to the spread of malaria within the mosquito population. In short, they could create mosquitos that were resistant to malaria.
- Protecting plants – Using CRISPR to kill weeds might seem like a trivial application, however they are a serious problem for farmers globally and can drastically impact crop yield. Equipping plants with resistance genes could lead to reduced reliance on pesticides and herbicides. Recently, Monsanto revealed a new global licensing agreement to use CRISPR within agriculture, alongside the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
- Producing food – Researchers at Tokushima University announced the creation of seedless tomatoes using CRISPR.
- Creating biofuel – A partnership between J. Craig Venter and Exxon Mobil has used CRISPR to improve the energy production of algae.
- Reviving extinct mammals – As future gazing as it sounds, a team at Harvard University has revealed plans to bring back the woolly mammoth with CRISPR. By combining elephant genes with mammoth genes recovered from fossils, the researchers hope to create hybrid embryos which could then be grown in an artificial womb.
CRISPR has already disrupted cancer treatment, cured HIV in living organisms, caused diseases to kill themselves, and destroyed harmful genes. Outside of healthcare, the technique has impacted FoodTech, ecology, conservation efforts and sustainable energy. In light of the advancements that have already been made, CRISPR’s future potential is outstanding.