Over the last ten decades, the world has seen some of the most awe-inspiring and thought-provoking scientific and technological advancements and innovations in diverse sectors of the global economy. One of these technological advancements is CRISPR. It is a medical technology poised to change the world. Maybe not immediately, but in a few years, the concept of CRISPR could be commonplace.
What Is CRISPR?
CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and a shorthand for CRISPR-Cas9, and it is a revolutionary technological advancement in medicine that can be used to alter or modify the genes of an organism. The protein Cas9 is simply an enzyme that functions as a pair of molecular scissors, with the ability to cut strands of DNA.
Scientists use CRISPR as a medium of discovering a specific bit of DNA inside a given cell. It helps researchers to change DNA sequences easily and alter gene function. The intriguing technology is packed with numerous potentials and is being applied in various ways for different purposes including gene defects correction, treating and curbing the widespread of infectious diseases, and improving life development.
Right before the novel technology was discovered and named by Francis Mojica, a Spanish microbiologist, scientists had ways of modifying the genes of both plants and animals as well as their functions. However, these methods took long years and required tons of money to achieve the objective. But with the invention of CRISPR, genome editing became a lot cheaper and easier. Currently, CRISPR is widely applied across the globe for several scientific research and sooner than later, CRISPR may be a part of practically everything we see from animals in farms, to garden plants.
APPLICATIONS OF CRISPR
CRISPR is a powerful tool widely used in the laboratory by many scientists. Some common and unusual applications of this tool that pose to impact and change different industries include:
This is the most popular application of CRISPR. It is more or less the primary use of CRISPR. Gene editing in medicine has taken the spotlight with a new turn as CRISPR technology is poised to redefine the concept of genome editing. The technology is rapidly accelerating to peak levels of adoption in the medical industry. CRISPR technology in gene editing possesses tremendous potentials to detect and cure illnesses as well as prevent them, asides from researching underlying diseases in humans, and discovering novel ways to treat them.
In some parts of the globe, CRISPR is now being applied outside medical research and treatment of diseases. It has been discovered that gene editing could facilitate the production of greener fuels – alternative fuels (biofuels) by algae. Before CRISPR technology was invented, algae produced lower levels of fat that weren't enough to aid the mass production of biodiesel available for use economically. However, with the gene-editing tool, gene modifications can be done to make algae produce just the right amount of fat needed to produce enough biodiesel. In the near future, oil companies could be producing about 25,000 algae alternative fuels daily.
CRISPR technology could be the next most sought-after technological innovation by pet owners seeking novel technologies to help and improve the quality of life for their pet animals. For example, gene editing tools are considered a trusted way to eradicate genetic diseases that are typically seen in purebred dogs. Dalmatians, a breed of distinctively spotted dogs, generally have a genetic mutation that makes them vulnerable to kidney stones. CRISPR technology can be used to edit their genes to reduce the percentage of Dalmatians with kidney stones.
Many individuals avoid certain foods not because they wouldn't love to have them, but because of the allergies that they get from eating or touching these foods. Food allergy affects a considerably larger percentage of the world's population and can be life-threatening with dire health complications. However, it is interesting to know that with CRISPR technology, allergy-free foods can be made. For example, CRISPR is being used by a research group in Netherland to modify the DNA of wheat to remove the gluten present. This to enable gluten-sensitive individuals– celiacs eat wheat.
Pests can be a great deal in some ecosystems. They could spread infectious diseases in plants and animals or invade a particular population. CRISPR technology researchers have discovered ways by which the genes of invasive pests can be modified to control them. For example, malaria-causing mosquitoes can be curbed with a gene modification that prevents a carrier from laying eggs. This would drastically reduce the widespread of the parasite.
Is not it mind-boggling to think that already extinct animals can be brought back by CRISPR technology? There are some animals we only got to see in books and eons-old documentaries. We didn't get to see them on earth as they lived and went into extinction millions of years ago. However, scientists keep discovering the most jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring technologies. Apparently, CRISPR has allowed scientists to discover ways to bring back extinct animals. Using CRISPR technology, scientists seek to introduce the genes of extinct animals in living relatives after which it is bred for generations until offspring match the DNA of extinct species.
Several pharmaceutical companies, both those just starting up as well as the reputably established ones are rapidly racing to adapt CRISPR technology and create CRISPR-based therapeutics including tissue regeneration, cancer immunotherapy, and gene therapy. Unlike a good number of gene modification tools the industry has seen, CRISPR poses a far less expensive, faster, and potentially safer for gene editing. It is highly promising for the treatment of diseases and creating disease-resistant genes.
As scientists continue with further research and delve deeper into exploring the endless possibilities of CRISPR, and less criticism from medical communities, it is safe to believe that the novel technology already occupies a significant part in the future of genome editing. CRISPR has the propensity to revolutionize and completely change the biological mechanism behind infectious diseases and gene defects, hence, postulating new theories and creating helpful therapies that will promote and enhance the development of life sciences in general.