CRISPR, Finally the Future Today

Recently, in genetic engineering a new gene-editing technique has been sweeping the biomedical field and it’s called, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,CRISPR for short.

As we’ve learned a genome is the sequence of DNA found in an organism’s chromosomes(DiGiuseppe, 2011). Every individual has their own specific genome which determines their genetic make-up. To put it simply, scientists have previously been able to genetically modify organisms by cutting out genes from two organism and inserting it into another with the recombinant DNA technique. This was done by using restriction enzymes, that have the ability to cut DNA at a specific site, to cut segments of DNA from different organisms then fuse them together to create recombinant DNA that can be incorporated into another organism’s genome (DiGiuseppe,2011). Unfortunately, this technique is difficult to apply especially to mammals as it is very expensive,slow and difficult to achieve(Uppangala,2010).

That’s where CRISPR comes in. The technique was discovered four years ago and spread like a virus. CRISPR has allowed molecular biologists everywhere to be able to alter genomes in all organisms quickly, precisely and at the extremely low of price of only $30(Ledford,2015)! The simplicity of CRISPR also plays a role in its adoption by science labs around the world. So what is CRISPR? Well in 1987 CRISPR was found in bacteria but the use was unknown. It wasn’t until 2007 that scientists determined that CRISPR was used as a defence against bacteriophages (Ledford, 2015). Using Cas9 enzyme and a guide RNA molecule CRISPR is able to locate the invading viral genome and destroy it(Harvard University,2014). Finally, in 2012 scientists realized the amazing gene-altering abilities of CRISPR and it was applied successfully in 2013. Since then biologists everywhere have been able to use CRISPR to perform amazing feats including building a malaria resistant mosquito, compile a list of the essential genes that drive human cancer and revive ancient woolly mammoth genes using the DNA of modern elephants (Crowe, 2015).

The benefits of CRISPR are undeniable  but its also important to recognize the disadvantages. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself as with the DDT crisis of the 1960. DDT was a pesticide hailed as a miracle spray, and because scientists refused to learn about all the possible effects, insects and animals became endangered and we are still facing the deadly consequences today with its presence in our oceans. This time let us not wait until its too late. Personally, I feel that before scientists begin making such life-altering changes using CRISPR they should first look into all possible outcomes of their work. Once that is determined and the tests are verified to be safe, I think CRISPR could be an amazing tool to bring the ideas of the future into today. Do you think the advancements made from CRISPR should be moving at such a breakneck pace or should we hold off on new experiments until we are sure it is safe?

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4 thoughts on “CRISPR, Finally the Future Today

  1. After reading this article, I’m interested to know what will be done to contain experiments using CRISPR. In my opinion, I feel like this technology should’ve been accessed carefully from before as now there probably is no turning back from the rapid use of this technology in experiments. In relation to my article on mitochondrial diseases it goes to show the significance of the role governments play on setting regulations on scientific technologies from using somatic cell nuclear transfer to CRISPR. From my standpoint I believe experiments involving CRISPR should be more carefully approached due to the potential consequences of some of the experiments on the environment. The social benefit from using CRISPR is most evident in biotechnology as experiments that were once very difficult are now simple. CRISPR is promising in the continuing research for cures and gene therapy. The use of CRISPR to alter an organism’s genome may be an issue for wild life biologists as they may fear the consequences of releasing these GMOs into the environment.

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  2. This article shows how far humans have come along the path of scientific breakthroughs. The CRISPR method would seem almost impossible maybe 20, 30 years ago. Yet today, it is a reality. It is not shocking that many scientists now use this new updated technology – such as in my article, the genetic modification of Anopheles stephensi, a breed of mosquito. The CRISPR method was used to insert genes that prevent the deadly disease. I have no doubt that many scientists and researchers are trying to utilise this technology, as there could be a staggering number of possible applications. In response to your question, I believe that scientists should experiment with CRISPR further to confirm that the procedure is safe and effective. I do not believe that there are no side effects whatsoever, and so they should continue to monitor the technique. A definite social benefit would be that it is cheaper and easier to use. That would definitely help people with dire needs and less income. However, there is ethical concern as well: the method can be used to edit human embryos. This of course creates ethical issue, as many would probably believe that all humans should be born naturally and without interference in the form of genetic modification. Those who oppose abortion, for example, would probably object to this. They most likely have religious and personal reasons for protesting the procedure. There is not enough protocol to control the usage of such an easily accessible technology that I am sure that scientists, and citizens alike, are concerned about the ethics of such a procedure.

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  3. Wow, this is honestly unbelievable! It’s so unreal how mankind can produce such amazing technologies. In biology class we learnt what recombinant DNA is and how it is developed. In comparison to my article, under conditions in which organisms face new threats, such as those posed by parasites or pathogens, it could be beneficial to have offspring with more recombinant chromosomes. CRISPR detects the viral genome in the chromosomes and destroys it, resulting an altered DNA, similar to the fruit flies situation. I personally believe that this discovery of CRISPR should be hold off for a bit longer. It’s too short of a timeline to see if it’s safe enough to approve of this advancement. The more experiments that are done the better, this allows more data and information about CRISPR and if it’s capable of being safe worldwide. A social benefit of CRISPR is being inexpensive, easier to use and much quicker. Ethical issues can arise, such that many people might think this is unnatural and can destroy the environment; for example Tobi’s discussion of DTT pesticide endangering animals and plant.

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  4. Tobi mentioned restriction enzymes, which we learn more about in the Grade 12 Biology course. I’ll have to do a bit more reading on CRISPR, because I’m not sure exactly how it is different from restriction enzymes, which bacteria also use to cut up viral DNA. It seems like CRISPR is much more precise, which is why there are so many more possible applications. Hopefully government catches up with science in this, and regulations are put in place with respect to the editing of human embryos (if it is permitted at all).

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