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10 Years of CRISPR

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    16th Sep, 2022

Context

Over the last few years, gene-editing technology has produced flawless results in clinical trials. India has approved a 5-year project to develop CRISPR to cure sickle cell anemia.

About

What is Genome Editing?

  • Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism's Deoxy-Ribonucleic Acid (DNA).
  • These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.
  • Advanced research has allowed scientists to develop the highly effective Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR), associated proteins-based systems. This system allows for targeted intervention at the genome sequence.
  • It is currently the simplest, most versatile, and most precise method of genetic manipulation and is therefore causing a buzz in the science world.

The CRISPR technology:

  • CRISPR is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which is a reference to the clustered and repetitive sequences of DNA found in bacteria, whose natural mechanism to fight some viral diseases is replicated in this gene-editing tool.
  • In popular usage, "CRISPR" (pronounced "crisper") is shorthand for "CRISPR-Cas9." CRISPRs are specialized stretches of DNA, and the protein Cas9, where Cas stands for "CRISPR-associated", is an enzyme that acts like a pair of molecular scissors, capable of cutting strands of DNA.
  • CRISPR is a powerful tool for editing genomes, allowing researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.

How this Technology is simple from any of its predecessors?

  • It is simple, and still far more accurate — and it does not involve the introduction of any new gene from the outside.
  • Its mechanism is often compared to the ‘cut-copy-paste’, or ‘find-replace’ functionalities in common computer programs.
  • A bad stretch in the DNA sequence, which is the cause of disease or disorder, is located, cut, removed; and then replaced with a ‘correct’ sequence.
  • And the tools used to achieve this are not mechanical, but biochemical, specific protein and RNA molecules.
  • The technology replicates a natural defense mechanism in some bacteria that use a similar method to protect themselves from virus attacks.

Potential of CRISPER-gene editing technology:

  • Correcting genes: It open ups the possibility of ‘correcting’ genetic information to cure diseases, prevent physical deformities, or to even produce cosmetic enhancements.
  • Permanent cure to genetic disorders: This technology opens up the possibility of finding a permanent cure for many of these diseases arising due to genetic disorders, like sickle-cell anemia.
  • Cure to deformities due to abnormalities in gene sequences: It also works in deformities arising out of abnormalities in gene sequences, like stunted or slow growth, speech disorders, or inability to stand or walk.

CSIR’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology has indigenously developed a CRISPR-based therapeutic solution for sickle cell anemia, which is now being readied for clinical trials.

CRISPR: Timeline of Key Events:

  • December 1987: The CRISPR mechanism was first published.
  • March 2002: The term CRISPR-Cas9 was published for the first time
  • March 2005: Jennifer Doudna and Jillian Banfield started investigating CRISPR.
  • Nov 2005: American researchers identified new families of Cas genes which appeared to help in protecting bacteria against invading viruses.
  • March 2011: Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna joined forces to investigate Cas9 enzyme.
  • April 2012: First commercialization of CRISPR-Cas 9 technology.
  • January 2013: CRISPR-Cas is used in human genome editing.
  • May 2015: The first report of genes edited in human embryos ignited the global ethical debate about gene editing technology.
  • October 2015: UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee called for a ban on genetic editing of the human germline.
  • November 2015: US scientists genetically modified mosquitos using CRISPR/Cas9 to prevent them from carrying malaria parasites.
  • August 2018: First CRISPR-Cas9 clinical trial launched.
  • December 2018: CRISPR-Cas9 editing helped restore the effectiveness of first-line chemotherapies for lung cancer.
  • October 2020: Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna 'for the development of a method for genome editing.

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