Crispr Cas9 is a revolutionary genome editing method that uses a protein complex to locate, recognize and edit the genome of any organism. Although it has only recently been utilized in human DNA, there are already hundreds of potential benefits as we begin to manipulate the human body with this new technology.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a form of genome editing technology that allows scientists to precisely change or ‘edit’ parts of the DNA sequence in living cells. It has created a revolution in the life sciences and its applications are being explored across many areas of research and development, including the discovery of new drugs, developing new crop varieties and treating human diseases.
Genome editing technologies have the potential to transform research and healthcare. For example, they offer a powerful approach for the treatment of genetic diseases, by allowing scientists to correct faulty genes in the body’s cells. CRISPR Cas9 is particularly exciting because it gives researchers a fast, cheap and easy way to edit genes, which was not previously possible.
Gene editing through CRISPR Cas9
CRISPR-Cas9 is based on a naturally occurring gene editing system in bacteria. Bacteria capture snippets of genetic code from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays. The CRISPR arrays allow the microbes to “remember” the viruses (or closely related ones). If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut up the DNA.
Scientists have co-opted this natural process for gene editing. They use guide RNAs to direct Cas9 enzymes to specific locations of interest within a cell’s genome, where they make precise cuts in the DNA. These cuts cause double-strand breaks in the DNA — openings that cells try to repair by stitching together broken pieces of DNA. In some cases, this process leads to small insertions.
What are its applications?
The potential applications of CRISPR-Cas9, and other CRISPR technologies, are almost limitless. In one case, scientists used CRISPR to disrupt the HIV virus in human cells by removing the HIV DNA from the genome. This proof of concept study could be the first step towards a cure for HIV. There is also a lot of interest in using CRISPR-Cas9 to cure genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis. These diseases occur because cells cannot make certain proteins due to mutations in the genes coding for them. By using CRISPR gene editing technology, researchers can remove mutated parts of these genes and replace them with healthy versions. In addition to treating diseases caused by mutations in single genes, scientists are exploring using CRISPR to treat cancer by reprogramming immune cells called T-cells. Other researchers are working on developing CRISPR enzymes that could be used directly as drugs.
How will Crispr Cas9 benefit humans?
Crispr is a gene-editing technique that enables researchers to alter the DNA of living organisms. Scientists can use it to disrupt the activity of genes, so they can see what they do. And they can also rewrite them, so they can make changes at will. This could allow them to create better crops, eliminate pests, develop new medicines and much more.
Up until recently, biologists have had to rely on random mutations to make changes in genomes – a process that’s slow and expensive. Thanks to Crispr Cas9, this is all about to change. The technology uses a protein called an enzyme to snip DNA at a specific location in the genome and then replace it with a different piece of DNA.
The use of Crispr Cas9 by molecular biologists is a living testimony that this technology can indeed help improve the way in which we manipulate genomes. With its affluence of benefits, Crispr Cas9 may very well become an indispensable tool for medicine in the future. Besides genetic manipulation actualizing potential treatment for cancer, sickle cell anemia and HIV, Crispr Cas9 seems to have the ability to cut short gene expression from exogenous sources such as viruses and bacteria. By utilizing its capabilities for treating infectious diseases, Crispr Cas9 may revolutionize the medical industry as we know it.