American and Spanish scientists have developed a safer genome editing method based on CRISPR technology, which minimizes the possibility of unwanted mutations. Researchers claim that the history of molecular biology did not know such a revolution yet. In 2012, it created a furor in the scientific world, having tested for the first time. Nowadays, the debate about its security and the scope of its possible use is heating up more and more.
What Is CRISPR?
CRISPR / Cas9 is a rapidly developing genome editing technology based on the bacterial immune system tools. This technology is created on bacterial DNA pieces called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR). Between these repeats are located DNA fragments (spacers) that carry traces of viruses attacking the bacterium. When the virus is re-attached, the bacterium recognizes and destroys it with Cas proteins that cut viral DNA.
Since 2013, studies for editing the genome in the cells of higher organisms have begun. Scientists tested this in mice with acute renal failure, type 1 diabetes, and muscular dystrophy. Thus, in the case of kidney disease, two genes were successfully activated, which improved kidney function after the acute phase of the disease. In mice with diabetes, it was possible to increase the activity of genes that are associated with the production of insulin. In mice with muscular dystrophy, it was also possible to activate the genes that facilitated the disease. All this provides new opportunities for the development of targeted epigenetic therapy against human diseases.
Prospects for Technology Usage
The results are able to provide solutions that will help humanity in the fight against the most comprehensive problems such as food shortages and global climate change. Genetically edited mushrooms became the first organism modified by CRISPR technology, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The conclusion showed that these mushrooms do not contain foreign DNA viruses and bacteria.
There are also several types of research on the gene editing of potatoes, soybeans, and wheat. Creating hybrids of different breeds of animals is another promising direction of technology. Scientists from China have bred cold-resistant pigs with a high content of brown fat, which will save heating expenditures. Researchers from Florida have decided to create a heat-resistant breed of cows that can survive in hot tropical climates.
Regardless of how soon genetically edited products will appear on our table, this technology has enormous research potential and promises more than one revolutionary discovery.