Humans have been engineering life for thousands of years. But over the last few decades scientists have achieved exponential growth in the field of biology, especially in gene manipulation or gene editing. Gene manipulation has a big potential to change our lives. And after the discovering of CRISPR for gene manipulation, everything has changed forever.
We have been figuring out ways to modify genes for a long time. We crossbred plants and animals to strengthen some specific traits or qualities. And became very good at this and actually created a large number of Genetically modified Organisms. But we didn’t know exactly, how does it work until we discovered and studied DNA.
After 1950 when scientists discovered DNA first time, they started to study and play with it. Meantime they bombarded plants and animals with radiation to cause a random and useful mutation. As a result, they found some organisms better from the previous one and some bad with any disease or several other disabilities.
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Then we learned to modify genes in a controlled manner and we developed many techniques like Restriction Enzymes, ZFNs, TALENs Gene Edition, etc. But all these techniques are very complex, time-consuming, and required a lot of money. But CRISPR solved all our problems and give some extra benefits.
What is CRISPR & how does it work?
CRISPR or “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” is a specifically designed tool for gene manipulation. It is based on a natural system used by bacteria cells to protect themselves from intruding viruses.
But the researchers studied and developed this technique to work on humans. And not only humans it can work on any living organism even on plants.
CRISPR points to the exact location of the DNA sequence so accurately which is to be changed. And an enzyme called Cas9 which is extremely precise and also called GPS of the biological system snips the pointed DAN sequence. As a result, the continuous thread-like formation of DNA divides into two parts.
But here DNA tries to heal itself by adding random DNA Sequences but this can cause deadly mutations which can be correct by replacing another set of DNA sequences that are added at the same moment. And this newly added DNA sequence contains all the desired quality.
But the mutations don’t occur in bacteria because they use this method as a protective system against viruses and heal the DNA itself by adding old sets of DNA characters.
This technique of gene manipulation can help us to replace a defective gene with a healthy gene, or to replace it to get us desired qualities. For example, doctors use the technique of gene editing back in 2015 to cure a baby girl’s leukemia. Giving her a better future.
The main reason why CRISPR is accepted widely is because of the enzyme used in the system called Cas9, which is programmable. Except for easy to use CRISPR is very precise, cheap & it also provides researchers the ability to edit live cells.
Designer babies with CRISPR.
By applying the same CRISPR technique on the fertilized egg it would allow us to create transgenic organisms or modified humans that have desired properties and desired gene mutations.
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Apart from this, all other medical gene manipulation whether good or bad is limited to individuals and can’t be transferred to others. But making the change in the initial state of the first cell of life will pass all the changes in the future cells of the baby. Who will eventfully pass his traits to the next generations.
Using CRISPR you can select how your baby will look like, what qualities he /she will have? For example, you can select the eye color of the baby which has no impact on health but can increase attractiveness, or you can decide what height your children will achieve or even can give him/her an extraordinary mind. And all this stuff is possible using gene manipulation.
This is an easily achievable task but what if we can completely eliminate a family disease. Well, this is also possible, let’s talk about health benifits of gene manipulation in detail.
Health benefits of gene manipulation.
There is a worldwide debate going on, on advance medical treatments and medical drugs but do we really need to use any of these procedures to cure a disease. What if we could make out body disease resistance? Can we rewrite our DNA to cure genetic disease?
The answer to both of the questions mentioned above is YES. And in 2019 David R. Liu discussed the same topic on TED. Where he explained how they used the CRISPR system to develop a base editor that can convert DNA letters to cure genetic disease in humans, animals, and plants.
This can not only cure a genetic disease but the HIV virus too. Back in 2015 scientists cured some living cells of the body by using CRISPR. And in the year 2016, they tested this technique on rats, and the results were stunning. They were able to cure more than 50% of body cells from the HIV virus by just simply injecting CRISPR in their tails.
Gene manipulation using CRISPR can also heal the body from cancer and any other disease that has affected humanity.
Conclusion for gene manipulation.
Gene manipulation has a vast number of positive sides, such as human health benefits as discussed above, or maybe we could find out therapy for HIV or technique to cure cancer which causes millions of death every year.
Apart from health benefits in humans it also can make plants and crops more nutritious and resistant to disease or able to grow in hard conditions.
Or make animals resistant to disease. Not only this but scientists are also working to edit the genes of mosquitoes to prevent carrying malaria. Therefore genome editing has so many positive sides. But what about the downsides of genome editing?
Any technology in a bad hand or dangerous mind is a lethal weapon. If we talk about gene manipulation then this kind of technology gives rise to genetically modified superhumans made for fight or extremely dangerous bioweapons that would have no cure. Somewhat like we see in science fiction movies
Not this technology is in our hands and we need to decide how we use it? unlock its power for good and avoided negative uses!
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