A CRISPR engineer explains why this gene-editing technology deserves this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Manipulating the DNA that encodes life is not difficult, even with 1970 science half a century away. But manipulating DNA fragments with exquisite precision – reducing the resolution of cutting, merging, or deleting to each genetic character is something science has only achieved in less than a decade. by.

This new ability is called gene editing. And the tool that helps us to do that is CRISPR – a simple, precise, and cheap gene editing technique that is being used around the world in every field, from plant breeding to animal design and treatment of cancer in humans.

For these reasons, the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier, Director of the Pathogen Science Unit of the Max Planck Research Institute, and Jennifer Doudna, professor at the University of California.

Two female scientists have discovered and turned CRISPR into a gene editing technology. This is the first time two women have been honored in a Nobel Prize together.

Jennifer Doudna (left) and Emmanuelle Charpentier (right) winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020.

Piyush K. Jain, an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Florida who is also working as a CRISPR research and improvement biology engineer, will explain to you: Why gene editing technology This deserves a Nobel Prize, even many people expected it many years ago?

Here is Jain’s post on The Conversation page:


Previously, my colleagues and I created a version of CRISPR that could be controlled by light. What makes it unique compared to other CRISPR versions is that our version allows for precise control over where and when gene editing is performed in a particular cell.

This tool can be used in animals and humans. We have created a targeting system that can encapsulate and deliver genomic-editing ingredients to exactly the cell we want – it’s kind of like a cellular GPS system.

Most recently, we have designed a tool that improves the speed and accuracy of CRISPR, so that it can be used in COVID-19, HIV, Hepatitis C and even rapid diagnostic kits. both prostate cancer.

Scientists working in the CRISPR field, as I have already guessed, long ago, that there will be a Nobel prize to be awarded for the discovery that opens the field. But when Charpentier and Doudna won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, I still felt that was wonderful.

This award will encourage talented young scientists and engineers to participate in the field of gene editing research. Ultimately, our work can be applied to the design of new diagnostic, therapeutic and therapeutic methods for a wide range of diseases.

A CRISPR engineer explains why this gene editing technology deserves this year s Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Live

The CRISPR / Cas system from the perspective of a gene editing tool

CRISPR / Cas is essentially a system with many variations. There have been a lot of scientific studies done in this field producing more than 20,000 publications in journals to date.

CRISPR was born in 1987, after a Japanese molecular biologist named Yoshizumi Ishino and colleagues discovered the CRISPR DNA sequence in E. coli.

The CRISPR sequence was then analyzed by a Spanish scientist, Francisco Mojica and colleagues who named the sequence CRISPR, short for Clustered Regular Interspaced. Short Palindromic Repeats.

While humans and animals have developed sophisticated immune systems to counter the attack of viruses, single-celled microorganisms like bacteria have to rely on CRISPR to find and destroy the virus’s genetic material in order to prevents viruses from infecting your cells to multiply.

Charpentier and Doudna have found a way to borrow this innate biological ability from bacteria and apply it to the bacterial genetic engineering. In other words, they used a tool found in a bacteria’s cell to change their own genes – bacteria.

In a landmark article published online June 28, 2012, Charpentier and Doudna showed that the CRISPR gene-editing engine consists of two components: a pathogen that acts as a type. The GPS finds and binds to the target gene’s location on the DNA of an invading virus, then binds to a CRISPR (Cas) binding protein, which acts as a DNA scissor.

Jennifer Doudna explains how CRISPR works

Around the same time, Virginijus Siksnys, a Lithuanian biochemist at Vilnius University, made a similar finding and submitted the results to be published a few months later, in September 2012.

Feng Zhang, biologist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts and colleagues have shown that CRISPR can be improved and used for mammalian cell editing. He currently owns one of the first patents on CRISPR application for gene editing, and this patent is being disputed by the University of California, Berkeley, where Doudna works.

Once the DNA has been cut in the right place, the cell will try to repair the cut. But the repair mechanism is highly error-prone and sometimes the cells can’t perfectly repair the cuts in the DNA. This ultimately results in the gene being deactivated.

Being able to turn off a gene in DNA like this is useful for gene function studies. This way, scientists can learn what happens if they stop a gene from working. This technique is also useful for treating cancer and infections, in that turning off a gene can prevent cancer cells and pathogens from dividing or destroying them entirely.

During this DNA cutting process, scientists can also fool the cell by giving it a new piece of DNA. The cells then combine this DNA with the desired modifications into the genetic code. This allows researchers to repair a genetic mutation that is causing an inherited disease or replace a defective gene with a healthy one.

A CRISPR engineer explains why this gene editing technology deserves this year s Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Live

The beauty of CRISPR lies in its simplicity. CRISPR can be easily customized to target any gene, whether it’s in plants, animals, or humans. CRISPR applications are therefore broad, ranging from tools for studying biological objects, diagnosing diseases to finding new therapies.

The technology could also be used to create better yield crops, biofuel, and transplantable organs in humans.

Why does CRISPR deserve a Nobel Prize?

While the CRISPR technology still has a lot of room for improvement, scientists have now started testing it for clinical treatment in humans, to treat certain types of cancers and genetic disorders. CRISPR-based diagnoses have also been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the emergency use authorization for COVID-19.

However, CRISPR also comes with many ethical concerns that need to be prudent. For example, in 2018, a Chinese scientist used CRISPR in a hasty and unethical manner to edit human embryos. As a result, he produced at least three CRISPR-edited babies that could pass these genetic changes to their offspring for generations to come.

A CRISPR engineer explains why this gene editing technology deserves this year s Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Live

Some people even invent DIY biological tools using CRISPR technology. This raises concerns about the need for laws governing the use of gene editing technology.

Despite these concerns, CRISPR has great potential to help us detect, treat and even erase many diseases and improve agricultural products. Society has seen the benefits of this gene-editing technology, and it deserves a Nobel Prize this year.

Refer Theconversation

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