5 Bizzare CRISPR Projects Pushing The Boundaries Of Gene Editing

CRISPR is a  gene-editing tool that is spreading like wildfire in the scientific community. The main focus of CRISPR is in the medical field, but you know how researchers can be.

5 Bizzare CRISPR Projects


Image by Chris Labrooy

Here are five examples of how they are using CRISPR to edit genes.

1. Pig farm for a Transplant?

What if the kidney donated to you belongs to a pig? For years, doctors are working on ways to reduce the waiting list patients face to get a transplant. Growing organs in pigs would seem like one crazy idea until CRISPR brought it closer to reality.

Researchers have managed to modify over 60 genes at once, more than ten times that had been previously achieved for removal of all pig retrovirus, that could trigger a rejection after a transplant, potentially making pigs’ organs suitable for transplantation into humans.

2.A super-dog: Hercules

World’s first genetically engineered super-dog Hercules along with his sister Tiangou, by Chinese scientists by switching off a gene called myostatin. This gene regulates the amount of muscle fibers produced and, without this break, the body just doesn’t know when to stop. Now that one may be able to design their pets. It won’t be long before one can customize the pet in terms of size, color, as well as strength or intelligence. A different research institute in China has already made miniature pigs, which is no bigger than a beagle. These micropigs are also made by using the gene-editing technique and are selling in a price range of $1,600 price tag.

3. Fluorescent beetles

Fluorescence is not new to animals, but normally flour beetles are not among them, up until now. Scientists have created a glowing beetle by adding a green fluorescent protein to its genome. The team sees potential in exploring this technique to study how specific types of cells change during development. They introduce a fluorescent protein that allows you to observe specific cells. If you want to label muscle cells, for example, you can use CRISPR to insert a fluorescent protein into a muscle-expressed gene and observe what happens. CRISPR provides a faster and cleaner approach to do this.

4. Turning males into females

Females who turn to males and males that turn to females that is what researchers do in a lab in Blacksburg, Virginia. They first had to identify the gene responsible for gender determination. Still, afterward, it was easy to use CRISPR and other genetic tools to play around with the gender in mosquito populations.

Surprisingly enough, this work has very serious motivation. In mosquitoes, it’s only the female that can bite and transmit diseases, so they’re trying to build large populations of non-biting sterile males to release into the wild. Malaria, Dengue, and now Zika are just some of the many diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, and many groups are hard at work to develop ways to control the spread of these small and dangerous insects.

5. Bringing back the mammoth

About 3-4 million years ago, the magnificent giant ruled northern continents. They had a fluffy fur coat, a thick layer of fat, and incredibly small ears, which was designed for the cold.

They have been extinct for almost 10,000 years ago, but this may change. A team from Harvard Medical School has attracted much attention for its grandiose idea of using CRISPR to transform Indian elephants into woolly mammoths. Correction: the goal is not to create a mammoth (which is impossible to do), but to develop a cold-resistant elephant. The idea is to find the genes for specific mammoth characteristics – like subcutaneous fat and thick hair – and transfer them to the Asian elephant.

6.  De-extinction of Passenger pigeon

Wolly Mammoth is not the extinct species that is researched by using CRISPR. In fact, the field has its own name: de-extinction. Another example involves the passenger pigeon, a once-common bird that became extinct in the late 19th century thanks to excessive hunting. Researchers at Revive and Restore, an organization supporting various de-extinction projects, plan to tweak the genome of modern pigeons to make them more similar to the extinct passenger pigeon.

So What’s next?

What if we have humans as strong as an ox or animal as intelligent as humans? Maybe bring back an extinct animal or introduce genes to stop the spread of weeds? We never know what researchers have in their mind and to which extent they can go. Some of these may seem impossible at first glance. Still, they all have a clear and specific reason behind them, including testing the technique, developing important new therapeutic approaches, or even designing better conservation approaches.

Sharing is caring!