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CRISPR – The Next Big Thing in Biology

by Angela Xu

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace. For example, AI (Artificial Intelligence) has already started to play a big role in our lives, like Siri on your phone or Amazon Alexa. As we continue this growth, a new gene editing technology called CRISPR is arriving as a surprise and a miracle.

What is CRISPR?

This new technology stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, but most scientists and researchers will just call it CRISPR (pronounced like “crisper”). It is a naturally-occurring gene editing tool that has been around us as a secret for years. CRISPR was first discovered as a bacteria and is now being researched in labs around the world for its gene editing abilities. Today, it allows scientists to alter genes and DNA much quicker and easier than before. It is one of the greatest discoveries in biology!

How does it work?

CRISPR snips part of the DNA strand, located in the double helix and can replace it with any other gene of your liking. The reason why CRISPR could be a miracle for many people, is because of its capability to help cure diseases such as cancer.

Here is a short animation that explains the process!

Implications of CRISPR

This new technology has the potential to impact many different fields , here are just a few:

Cure for cancer! Researchers have been working hard for decades trying to find a cure for the disease that has killed millions. To understand how CRISPR can help find a cure, we first must understand how cancer occurs. A healthy cell can become cancerous when there are abnormalities in the gene (like a mutation).

When these cancer cells grow and duplicate, they can form a tumor. Because CRISPR allows scientists to study and edit genetic sequences, this technology can help cancer researches closely study the genetic mutations and sequences of patients with cancer.

For a more in depth and advanced explanation, read the article CRISPR Cancer Research!

Genetic Diseases! Genetic diseases such as colorblindness and sickle cell anemia are caused by one or a combination of incorrect letters in your DNA. Scientists are using CRISPR to change those mutations, fixing the disease!

For more diseases that CRISPR technology can help us cure, click here!

Gene-Edited Food! You’ve heard of crops being genetically-modified, but scientists today have successfully created CRISPR-modified food as well! For example, scientists in China were able to use CRISPR to gene edit rice to improve crop yields.

In the future, researchers also hope to grow CRISPR-modified apples that don’t brown so easily, de-caffinated coffee beans, and much more! CRISPR technology can help to improve the shelf life of produce, which could potentially reduce food waste as well.

Gene-edited food can also be useful for people with allergies! Scientists are working on ways to make foods like peanuts and dairy safe for everyone to eat using this innovative technology!

Read this article written by Synthego: An Era of Food Evolution to learn more about this topic!

Clean Energy & Biofuel! By using CRISPR’s gene editing technology, researchers are currently trying to produce biofuel from algae! Biomass energy (also known as bioenergy) is energy from natural resources like plants. This is a great alternative to coal or petroleum because it is much more sustainable.

As of now, bioenergy only produces about 10% of the world’s energy, but with CRISPR’s help, we could produce a lot more! One company used CRISPR technology to double the amount of energy produced from algae.

If you want to read more about this company’s research, read the article Gene-Editing Algae Doubles Biofuel Output Potential

As you can see, CRISPR has the ability to transform the world! There are so many ways that CRISPR can be incorporated into our everyday life. If gene editing is a topic that interests you, we highly recommend researching CRISPR on your own!

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1 comment

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