Regardless of what you think about genetic engineering, people are already using the tool to make changes to organisms that could lead to new treatments for diseases with no cure or even modification of human embryos.
There are many gene-editing tools that are present, but CRISPR is one of the most cost-effective and precise tools. It works by injecting a DNA construct with three major components into a living organism. The components are the Cas9 enzyme that cuts or deletes a segment of DNA, a sequence of RNA that guides the Cas9 to the correct location to cut, and a new DNA template to repair the cut with.
Here is the list of 10 gene hacking things that gene-editing tools like CRISPR is doing:
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1. Making Hulked-Out Goats and Dogs
Scientists have used CRISPR to delete genes that inhibit hair growth and muscle in goats for supplementing the country’s commercial wool and meat industries.China is researching both genetic engineering and cloning, and it’s possible that these two technologies become a common method of agricultural industries and expanding livestock.
2. Removing Malaria from Mosquitos
The scientist has created mosquitos that are resistant to the parasite that causes malaria Plasmodium falciparum. They used the CRISPR tool for removing a segment of mosquito’s DNA, and when its genetic system tried to repair the genome, it was tricked into replacing it with a DNA construct engineered by the scientists. Two genes in the construct made the mosquitos resistant to Plasmodium falciparum. The altered mosquitos passed on the resistance genes to their offspring, e1ven when they mated with normal mosquitos.
3. Eliminating Cancer
This medical marvel wasn’t actually achieved by using CRISPR, but using a similar gene-editing tool called TALEN. An infant girl had lymphoblastic leukemia, a serious form of blood cancer. After trying cancer-treating methods like bone-marrow transplants and chemotherapy, the doctors decided to use gene-editing tools as a last resort. By altering the immune system T-cells of a donor to kill leukemia cells without attacking the girl’s body, doctors successfully eliminated her cancer.
4. Pig’s organs for Human transplant
Harvard Medical School recently led a team of scientists that used a complex CRISPR molecule to edit 62 genes in pig cells at once. Church believes that this technique could be used to make pig organs suitable for transplantation into humans. The team’s experiments also represent a step forward in CRISPR technology by using the tool to edit many genes at once, a method that could be imitated to make more complicated changes to DNA quickly.
5. Editing Humans
Gene-editing techniques have been used on humans, as is the case with the infant girl who was treated for leukemia with engineered T-cells. Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London are trying to genetically modify human embryos to learn about the earliest stages of human life and potentially reduce the number of miscarriages. Experiment proposals like this one make some people worry that genetic engineering technologies will be used in the future to create “designer babies” with preferred traits. We are a far cry from that kind of experimentation, but it won’t be long before gene-editing is used to combat diseases and other ailments.
6. Treating HIV
HIV inserts its DNA into the genome of the host, and while it can lay dormant for years and certain drug cocktails can keep it in check, there is no other way to make the virus permanently inactive. Researchers have shown that CRISPR can be used to remove the virus’s DNA from the patient’s genome. The big problem is that it is difficult to locate HIV DNA in latent cells that don’t demonstrate any of the symptoms associated with the active virus. More detailed models of latently infected cells are being developed in an attempt to find genetic sequences that could be cut out of the virus to render it harmless.
7. Developing New Kinds of Drugs
Drug companies invent new ways to deliver the CRISPR gene editing system to different parts of the body. Pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG and startup CRISPR Therapeutics recently announced a $300 million joint venture to develop CRISPR-based drugs to treat heart disease, blood disorders, and blindness. The partnership represents not an impending cure for any one disease, but the beginning of a significant and aggressive period of research that they hope could lead to many.
8. Making Super Plants
Researchers are now experimenting with ways to improve crop disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance using CRISPR. A research team from Rutgers is working on a long-term project to genetically modify wine grapes and turfgrass in such a way that the methods can be implemented in a variety of other crops. The grapes will be edited to resist downy mildew, and a type of grass commonly found on golf courses called creeping bentgrass will be modified to resist dollar spot disease, a problem that is usually combated with fungicides. If successful, scientists could develop new, heartier crops to supplement the agricultural industry.
9. Treating Muscular Dystrophy
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by a mutation that prevents the body from producing the dystrophin protein, a critical protein in the development of muscle tissue. People who have this genetic mutation suffer from muscle degeneration that is ultimately fatal. Because the mutation that causes muscular dystrophy affects one specific gene, the disease is a prime target for using CRISPR/Cas9 Researchers successfully treated muscular dystrophy in lab mice this month by using CRISPR to cut and repair the dystrophin gene.
10. Engineering Mini-Pigs
This is another example of gene-editing using the tool TALEN. Researchers created a particularly small variety of the Bama pig by disabling one of the growth hormone receptor genes within the pig’s fetal cells. These little pigs will reach about 30 pounds when full-grown. The researchers plan to sell the “micropigs” as pets.
Source: popular mechanics