CRISPR Technology

The field of Biology has seen rapid advances in both knowledge, and technology, in the last century. Once the structure of DNA was understood, new techniques were developed, like DNA sequencing, that has allowed researchers to understand the genetic code. One of the newest technologies, that offers tremendous opportunity, is called CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and this novel technique could revolutionize genetics as we know it. CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing mechanism by which cellular mechanisms cut the nuclear strands of bacteriophages, at specific locations, to render the foreign genetic material inert.

CRISPR-Cas9
CRISPR-Cas9 defense mechanism to defend bacteria against foreign viral DNA

With this model, specific strands of DNA can be targeted for specific cuts to either remove, or replace, the DNA strands. This application could prove useful in mammalian genetic experiments where a gene of interest could be modified, or replaced, to express a desired gene. CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Replacement

With this model in mind, scientists are developing enhanced versions of the CRISPR-Cas9 model to decrease the chance of random sequence editing. While the manipulation of human genomes are still an idea for the future, other mammalian systems have experienced success in applying the CRISPR-Cas9 model. At Harvard, pioneer of CRISPR-Cas9, Dr. David Liu, has engineered proteins to increase the efficiency of finding the targeted sites with greater efficiency, from 1 in 16, to 1 in 4. In the coming decade, we could see that ratio increase even more to where human trials could be a possibility. Imagine, a child born with a genetic disease, like sickle cell anemia, could have the gene repaired to enable the correct sequence to be expressed. The future looks promising and I am curious to see how CRISPR-Cas9 develops to suit the needs of mankind.

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