What is Gene Editing and How does it Work?

All the important information about Gene Editing is discussed in this article such as “What is Gene Editing”, Uses of Gene Editing, Application of Gene Edition, Concerns with Gene Editing, and many more. Readers can read the complete article for all information about “What is Gene Editing Technology”.

Human beings have always strived for a disease-free life. We have achieved great scientific progress through which it is now possible to change the fundamental genetic code of life. This has enabled us to modify the genomes of all kinds of living beings including animals, plants, and even humans.

Gene editing technology also called genome editing or genome engineering, is a technique through which DNA is inserted, removed, modified, or replaced in the genome of a living organism.

What is Gene Editing?

Gene editing technology affects various fields such as disease management, biomedical research, agriculture, environmental research, etc. Gene editing has transformed the research and treatment of human diseases. Agricultural scientists are interested in the technology’s potential to edit crops to make them more nutritious and drought-resistant. Significant improvements have also been made to gene editing, making it more accurate.

The Emergence of Gene Editing

CRISPR regularly clustered short palindromic repeats, described in 1987 by Japanese scientist Yoshizumi Ishino as E. coli bacteria were discovered in the genomes of prokaryotes.

But, its use was successfully demonstrated in the year 2012 by a group of scientists who discovered that by designing a guide RNA to target a specific region in the genome. The CRISPR Cas 9 system can be used as a cut-and-paste tool to modify the genome. Since then, it has been used to basically cut and paste DNA to shut down troublesome genes.

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It was assumed that the E.coli bacteria possess a built-in gene editing system that responds to invading pathogens such as viruses. Using CRISPR, bacteria cut off part of the virus DNA and slightly rear it to help them recognize and defend the virus the next time it attacks.

Scientists adapted this gene editing system so that it could be used in other cells from animals, plants, humans, etc. CRISPR gene editing technology has been used for different purposes to improve human life.

Concerns with Gene Editing

Issues with GM Crops: Genetically modified crops have higher yields and better nutrition but concerns related to GM crops have not been addressed properly. These foods have been said to create allergic reactions in many people and thus their efficacy has not been tested fully on people of all ages, genders, etc. Issues have also been highlighted in various research that CRISPR Cas 9 edited agricultural crops are also said to have triggered cancer in various people. In India where there are a diversity of races having a different genetic composition, issues related to the effects of GM crops on these diverse people should be addressed.

Genetic Inequality: Through gene editing technology, wealthy parents can afford to edit their offspring’s genes which leads to genetic haves and have-nots. This would lead to greater inequality than the current world already lives with. It can also lead to genetic discrimination between the poor and the rich. Thus, inequality will be established as opposed to the technique for which it is to be used.

Germline Modification: Germline editing means changing the genes passed on to children and subsequent generations, creating genetically modified people. The changes made in the germline will be passed on to the subsequent generations, thus, the modifications will also be passed on to the new ones that will be added to the current generation. Germline modification has been considered unsafe and socially unacceptable. This random mutation, extrapolation of genetic changes, will lead to negative effects on the social perception among the members of the society, with harmful consequences for future generations.

So far we have read about what is gene editing technology, the Emergence of gene editing, and concerns with gene editing technology.

DNA-CRISPR Cutting and Pasting

Editing of genetic material is done by using CRISPR-Cas 9 technology, also called molecular scissors. It is a dynamic and precise tool that allows scientists to essentially cut and paste DNA at any location and potentially repair or alter defective genes. It is used to remove, add or replace specific DNA sequences in the genome.

The CRISPR-Cas 9 technology consists of two key molecules that introduce changes to DNA. These are:

Cas9: This is an enzyme that can cut the DNA strand at specific locations so that desired bits of DNA can be added or removed to achieve the desired result.

Guided RNA: This is a short fragment of a pre-designed RNA sequence located within a long RNA that binds to the DNA and directs the Cas9 enzyme toward the right side of the genome. This ensures that the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at a precise point.

Uses of Gene Editing Technology

Genetic Research: CRISPR gene editing tools have been used to provide better genetic models for basic disease research, drug screening, and therapy development. Rapid diagnosis, in-vivo editing, and treatment of genetic conditions have improved. It has the potential in treating various complex conditions like cancer, tuberculosis as well as HIV infection. Genetic research is presently focused on single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and sickle cell disease. Scientists in this field are working to boost the functions of immune T-cells so that the immune system can detect and kill cancer cells.

Manufacturing Cleaner Biofuels: CRISPR gene editing technology has been used to alter the genes of algae with higher biofuel yield. This has enabled researchers to double the yield of biofuel from algae. The oil is processed in existing refineries and used as conventional fuel. This has enabled researchers with a new tool to fight global warming through the use of more environmentally friendly and less degrading fuels. Gene editing tool has the potential to solve the global energy crisis.

Medical Treatments: Gene editing techniques have the potential to alter disease-causing genes and treat serious medical conditions. Researchers have been able to edit genes in human embryos in an attempt to correct a faulty gene that causes an underlying blood disorder. It was not accepted by the scientific community due to ethical and moral concerns, but it has shown that gene editing technologies have great potential to solve issues and diseases that have long plagued human civilization.

Agricultural Improvement: Agriculture has improved all over the world as a result of gene editing. It has improved plant yield, and crop quality and has enabled us to produce more disease-resistant and better-quality crops. This has enabled us to domesticate wild crops which are useful for eradicating hunger and malnutrition. Using this equipment, a large number of crop varieties have been cultivated which have improved agricultural performance.

Conclusion about Gene Editing CRISPR

Gene editing has taken technological innovations to new levels. There is still much progress to be made as technical and ethical barriers still stand between the use of humans and genome editing applications. Experiments and trials should be conducted so that it is subject to proper scrutiny by regulators and their use should be controlled to prevent commercial abuse.

While scientists are still working to determine whether gene editing technology is safe and effective for human beings to use, the present application of the technology must be regulated for safe use. It must be remembered that any technology is for the good of mankind. It should be ensured that social concerns are addressed before using gene editing. The government, the private sector, and the scientific community should work together to make gene editing safe.

Thank you for reading this informative article about What is Gene Editing and How does it Work. If you have any questions related to this article “What is Gene Editing” then comment below in the comment box.

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