CRISPR, a tool that can change the lives of billions of people. This specific tool has been earning its name in treating and preventing disease. However, this technique is not limited to the field of health sciences. Recently, this powerful tool is helping scientists to improve technologies to protect the environment.
CRISPR is no more limited to just adding or deleting DNA parts, but, could do many more things. For instance, if used properly this genetic tool has editing properties that can increase or decrease the transcription and translation of certain genes. Furthermore, we can also control the rate of expression of several genes, with the help of one foreign transcription factor.
These qualities make CRISPR revolutionizing tool that can change our outlook towards science. For example, by using CRISPR we can develop new ways, which can help us in tackling the environmental challenges.
- 1 Cleaning the Environment from Pollutants
- 2 Biodegradable Plastics
- 3 Alternative to Fuels: Biofuels
- 4 Biosensors
- 5 Reducing Global Warming
- 6 An alternative for Pesticides
- 7 Invasive Species
- 8 Managing Waste
Explore more about CRISPR: What is CRISPR Cas9?
Cleaning the Environment from Pollutants
Bioremediation is the process, by which we can clean the environment. In this, we, introduce microorganism into an environment. As a result, they will clean up and breakdown the pollutants present in that environment. CRISPR is helpful in engineering such as microbes that can degrade a wide variety of pollutants efficiently. A scientist can improve the genetic pathway that might help in engineering such species. Scientists are already working on such species that make and degrade compounds in plastics.
Furthermore, CRISPR can be handy in such other bioremediation process. For example, Researchers at the University of Texas, find out that some bacteria are better suited in cleaning oil spills. Therefore, using CRISPR, we can manipulate them and even modify other bacterial cells. Via transforming them with the genes present in this oil-degrading bacteria. Scientists are also working on a wide variety of microorganisms to enhance their bioremediation and biodegrading actions.
Apart from fuels, plastics are another factor that pollutes our environment because they take years for proper decomposition. On the other hand, annually thousands of wildlife deaths occur due to plastic ingestion. Therefore, we need organic-based plastics or bioplastics.
Certain bacteria produce Polyhydroxyalkanoates or microbial polyester. These are Bioplastics. Furthermore, we can accelerate the bioplastic production with the help of CRISPR. Recently, CRISPR successfully manipulated a bacterial species, Ralstonia eutropha, for successful bioplastic production.
CRISPR can be helpful in the accelerating the process of synthesizing plastics, for example, CRISPR successfully high jacked a piece of bacterial machinery for high throughput bioplastic production. It means the pathways can accelerate using altering genes pathway involved. Furthermore, by using bio-based plastics, they can easily degrade and will not cause harm to the environment.
Alternative to Fuels: Biofuels
Fuels are one of the most important and commonly used energy sources. On the other hand, it is also a non-renewable source. Therefore, the quantity of fuel around the world is bound to finish one day. As a result, we need to find a solution to this situation. And it is Biofuel.
Biofuel is the cheapest way to generate fuels, by utilizing organic matter or biomass. Plants, algae, and bacteria have pathways to develop biofuels. With the help of the CRISPR, we Tailor Microalgae for Efficient Biofuel Production. On the other hand, we can also increase the level and efficiency of those cells, which already produce biofuels. The precision and efficiency of CRISPR can help us tackle the most complex genetic organism and use them for producing biofuels.
Certain bacteria feed upon waste and plant cell walls to produce fuels such as methane. We can use this technology to accelerate the process and help us better shortly.
Biosensors go hand in hand with bioremediation. Biosensing is a process in which microbes or plants are loaded with probes or sensors to detect some compounds in soil or any environment. Plants and microbes based biosensors detect certain weapons (bioweapons) and pathogens in the soil. In the same way, these engineered plants and microbes can detect environmental pollutants.
According to a recent article published, CRISPR is quite successful in creating biosensors. Similarly, teams in 2016 and 2017 from Pakistan, participating in iGEM competition presented two biosensors respectively. One was able to detect levels of toxic gases in the air. While others were able to detect heavy metals in water.
Reducing Global Warming
Burning fossil fuels is the main source of carbon dioxide emission, which in turn causes global warming. This global warming will destroy our environment if we did not try to find an alternative. We are dependent on fossils fuels in every aspect of our life. Moreover, carbon dioxide is not the only emissions.
Another group of gasses, Greenhouse gasses is also responsible for global warming. Among them, one of the most potent gas is methane. There are several producers of methane gas like all ruminant animals (cattle, goats, sheep, and other herbivores) and bacteria.
The most prominent methane-producing organism is bacteria. Some of them live in wetlands, some live in the guts of the cows and the flooded field rice. We can alter the genetics of cows or the grass they eat so that they can reduce the amount of methane produced. Engineered rice can also curb bacteria to keep as much as methane in the ground as possible. CRISPR can facilitate these efforts, resulting in improving our environment.
Video: Gene editing through CRISPR will have great benefits to health and the environment!
An alternative for Pesticides
The earth loses half of the crops it produces due to pests or diseases every year. As we are in the alarming situation to control world hunger. CRISPR might prove handy here, by engineering the certain crops, which can resist a certain threat or disease. Using CRISPR, the scientist has also generated virus-resistant cucumber and fungus resistant rice. This kind of plants can be engineered soon and the can help in reducing world hunger.
Invasive species are those species of animal or plants, which invade into a new environment. As a result, this disturbs the ecosystem of that new environment. There are several genetic ways for eradicating invasive species. These embody “gene drives,” within which a citron that reduces fitness is unfolded through the population. Many CRISPR-based gene drives have already been delineating by researchers. CRISPR may even be applied to “self-limiting” technologies, which act sort of a genetic type of contraception.
Tons of waste is produced annually. Usually, there is no such way of managing this much waste. This increasing amount of waste has a huge negative impact on humans, other living organisms and the environment. Furthermore, in the case of managing this waste, it takes a lot of work and fuel to do so. The fuel used in turn again harms the environment.
CRISPR can solve this issue in several ways. For instance, scientists find out that certain bacteria can reduce waste containing heavy metals. Now Using CRISPR, we can increase the efficiency of this particular bacterium. In a few years, we via gene editing up to some extant will solve this issue.
Explore More: Dark side of CRISPR