Biotechnology Genetics

CRISPR Applications for the betterment of Humanity!

CRISPR, a powerful novel gene-editing tool. In 2013, it came into the light as a gene-editing tool. It consists of several programmable components. For instance, CAS proteins, sgRNA, spacer elements, template DNA, etc. The most versatile among them is CAS protein. By merely changing the sequences of sgRNA, it can guide CAS protein to target and cut any DNA sequence.

Moreover, due to its versatility, there are a wide array of CRISPR applications.  The potential for their misuse is also noteworthy. However, CRISPR technology offers endless applications ranging from curing human diseases, to grow healthy food, and to novel gene-editing.

Some of the fields for CRISPR applications are:

1.     Cancer treatment

2.     HIV treatment

3.     Blindness

4.     Malaria

5.     CRISPR in plant health

6.     Editing human embryos

Cancer Treatment

CRISPR treatment cancer

Almost all living things suffer a lot annually due to cancer. Furthermore, the available treatments are like a double-edged sword.  For instance, treatments like Chemotherapy does not distinguish between fast-growing healthy cells and dangerous cells.  As a result, it also destroys the healthy living cells of the patients. Thus causing severe damage to patients.  Therefore, Investigators are using CRISPR/CAS9 as a potential source to edit cells outside the body.  So that they can fight cancerous cells once injected inside the tumor.

Moreover, In October 2016, a lung cancer patient in China became the first patient in the world to receive an injection of reprogrammed cells using CRISPR, reported the journal Nature.

Explore more:  How Close Are We, To Curing Cancer with CRISPR?

HIV Treatment

HIV, which causes AIDS, makes our immune cells to stop working, is notoriously a tedious virus to tackle. Although treatments like HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) can prolong the patient’s life by 15 years, however, it is not a permanent solution. CRISPR is successful in removing HIV from the patient’s genome.  As an example, In 2018 A group of researchers from Kobe University in Japan knocked out two functional genes from HIV, which regulate its replication, removing these genes will halt its replication process. This shows that CRISPR applications in HIV treatment are highly crucial.

Similarly, by disrupting some genes like CCR5, we can gain immunity against HIV. The ‘CCR5’ are genes responsible for making proteins that HIV uses, particularly for gaining entry to a cell. A Chinese scientist last year claimed the birth of twins having defective CCR5 genes, which he achieved using CRISPR/CAS9 technology.

Explore more:  Can CRISPR cure HIV?

Blindness Treatment

According to the National Institutes of Health 2 to 3 per 100,000 newborns are affected by a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, which is one of the most common causes of childhood blindness. This condition is a genetic disease caused by mutations in genes that are responsible for healthy vision. An article published in 2017 cited the genetic tool to help in the direct silencing of dominant detrimental pathogenic mutations via the NHEJ pathway. Similarly, it can also successfully remove sections of DNA that cause the disease using a pair of SgRNA.

Malaria Treatment

Malaria is another deadly disease that has been there for centuries, causing deaths all over the world, especially in third world countries. According to WHO an estimated 300-600 million people suffer from malaria each year. Malaria is a protozoan parasitic disease.  Plasmodium is the protozoa, which is the causative agent of malaria.  The carrier for this pathogenic protozoan is female Anopheles mosquitoes.

Since the pathogen itself is very tough to control because of its large population in these countries, we can cut off its carrier, i.e., the mosquitoes. Scientists have created mosquitoes resistant to malaria by altering their DNAs; the modified mosquitoes can transfer these immune genes to 99% of their successor.

Another study  published in nature biotechnology represents the use of CRISPR/CAS9 to play with the fertility and development of female ‘anopheles mosquitoes.’ In this study, C a gene called doublesex was the target for CRISPR/CAS 9. This gene is responsible for female development that led to the mosquitoes being unable to lay eggs or bite.

Producing better and larger quantities of Plants

Like CRISPR applications in human health, CRISPR/CAS9 technology has enormous applications in plant health. It has applications in eradicating pests, which are harmful to plant growth. Similarly, pesticide usage can reduce, which has a significant impact on the environment. Using this to have a new, improved variety of plants that has more nutrition and are resistant to harsh conditions that are not possible with conventional methods.

Allergen-Free Food

Allergy is a condition in which our body immune system responds to an allergen by secreting an excess of IgE (an antibody Immunoglobulin E). Food allergy is devastating. Because certain individuals bodies will react adversely to certain food. The symptoms may vary from simple nausea, diarrhea to inability to breath and even death. Therefore, CRISPR application in the field of allergen-free food is vital.  Allergy-free foods can be achieved using CRISPR/CAS9 by editing out genes that cause our immune system to respond this way.

Hybrid Tomatoes

A group of researchers has come up with an idea to make a hybrid of tomato and chili. which is spicy by genetically adding genes to tomato, and soon we will see a hybrid of chili and tomato.

Editing Human embryos

Editing humans embryos is by far the most controversial and highly anticipated aspect of CRISPR applications as a variety of factors are concerned with it. Last year, He Jiankui, A Chinese scientist faced severe criticism.  For claiming to have modified embryos of two babies, making them resistant to HIV.

CRISPR/CAS9 has the distinction to alter society for the greater good or bad. We do not know for sure. However, experts suggest drawing a line, is better for a safer future.

Explore More: 11 Diseases CRISPR Technology Could Cure!


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