Each year, the number of scientific and technological advancements grow tremendously. From The Cloud Amazon has created to the digitalized board game of Monopoly, the ways in which we go about life are constantly changing. This is also true of the field of genetics. Scientists have discovered new ways to essentially cure the disease-carrying genes of humans.
The new technology consists of CRISPR (1), a gene-editing tool, and its associated enzyme Cas9. CRISPR is a copy of RNA, a information-carrying molecule, that carries the genetic information of viruses (2). The CRISPR sequences allow for the bacteria to have built of knowledge of the viruses. This comes in handy because if the virus attacks again, the bacteria can produces RNA snippets to target the virus and eventually use the Cas9 enzyme to disable the virus (3). Scientists have used this same mechanism to explore genetic modifying. The RNA composes a sequence as a guide to a specific location that needs gene editing. The Cas9 enzyme attaches to the DNA, unzips it, and cuts out the DNA at that location. From here, researchers have been able to utilize the cell’s unique DNA repair process to either add or delete pieces of genetic information, or to make altercations to the current structure of DNA, replacing an existing section with a newly created sequence.
The mechanisms of CRISPR and Cas9 have the potential for significant new genetic improvements. Scientists can use CRISPR/Cas9 to prevent and treat a multitude of diseases. Research is being explored on a variety of single-cell disorders, as well as the more complex diseases, such as heart disease or cancer. It can be used to change a single genetic code, turn on or off genes, or even be used as a tracking device for scientists to learn more about the patterns of genes (2).
CRISPR can also be applied to drug revelations and therapeutic treatments. In terms of drug potential, CRISPR and Cas9 allows for the screening of the activities of various genes or domains of proteins to take place. It can be used to identify targets in cancer research by determining whether every gene in a cancerous genome is continuously dividing and growing larger. In terms of therapeutic discoveries, CRISPR and Cas9 can pinpoint the exact origin of a disease and possibly cure that genome (4).
The new lengths of the advancements in genome editing places hope into our future of diseases and treatment. Genetics opens up an entire new realm of research that can potentially be the solution we have been looking for.
References and Footnotes
- Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats