'We now have the technology to correct misspellings in our DNA that cause known genetic diseases’ -David Liu, chemist, scientist and inventor.
For us to understand how revolutionary our times our, -and along with them this innovation in medical science- let's enhance our fundamentals. Here's a detailed but general overview of CRISPR technology
CRISPR is a powerful gene editing tool that allows scientists to modify DNA with unprecedented precision. The CRISPR system is based on a naturally occurring mechanism used by bacteria to defend against viral infections.
CRISPR stands for "Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats." This refers to the pattern of repeating DNA sequences found in bacterial DNA that is part of the CRISPR system.
The CRISPR system includes two key components: the CRISPR RNA (crRNA) and the CRISPR-associated protein (Cas). The crRNA is a short piece of RNA that is complementary to a specific DNA sequence. The Cas protein acts like a pair of molecular scissors, cutting the DNA at the location specified by the crRNA.
Scientists have adapted the CRISPR system to create a powerful tool for genetic engineering. By designing crRNAs that match specific DNA sequences, researchers can use Cas proteins to cut and modify DNA in a targeted way. This has enormous potential for treating genetic diseases, creating new crops with desirable traits, and even potentially eradicating certain diseases.
Despite the promise of CRISPR, there are still many ethical and safety concerns associated with gene editing. As a result, the use of CRISPR technology is heavily regulated, and its applications are still being explored and debated by scientists, policymakers, and the public.
A key term here is Molecular Scissors. In contrast, BASE EDITING would be an 'eraser and pencil', finely removing and replacing one letter within our DNA with another.
BASE EDITING: Molecular Machines.
Base editing is a type of gene editing that allows for targeted changes to be made to a specific DNA base pair without cutting the DNA double helix. This is achieved by using a modified version of the CRISPR system.
Traditional CRISPR systems use the Cas protein to cut the DNA at a specific location, which can then be repaired or modified by the cell's natural repair mechanisms. In contrast, base editors use a modified version of the Cas protein that is fused to an enzyme that can chemically modify a specific DNA base.
There are several types of base editors, but the most commonly used ones are cytosine base editors (CBEs) and adenine base editors (ABEs). CBEs convert cytosine (C) to thymine (T), while ABEs convert adenine (A) to guanine (G).
Base editing has several advantages over traditional gene editing techniques. It allows for precise changes to be made to a specific base pair without introducing potentially harmful double-stranded DNA breaks. This reduces the risk of off-target effects and makes base editing a safer and more efficient method of gene editing.
Base editing has many potential applications, including treating genetic diseases, creating new crop varieties, and engineering cells for use in research and biotechnology. However, like all gene editing technologies, base editing also raises ethical and safety concerns, and its use is subject to regulation and oversight.
Are your minds blown by this crash course in current gene editing technologies? We hope this inspires you to support STEM and the general health of Humankind.