It is hard to talk about gene editing without mentioning the gene-editing tool called "CRISPR." This technique made it possible to engineer a gene with a high level of precision, something that was not possible before. It is safe to say that CRISPR is one of the most important scientific discoveries of the century. It has the power to change humans and our environment and fight various genetic diseases. Here are some of the most prominent experimental CRISPR treatments in recent years.
8. A Human GIF
George Church, a Harvard University geneticist, led the team who made it possible to insert a GIF animation into the genomes of an Escherichia coli bacteria. This one is not groundbreaking, but it is an interesting experiment in testing the storage capacities of DNA.
7. Editing DNA In Space
Yes, we also had gene editing in outer space. It was the first time that the astronauts onboard the ISS used gene-editing technology to alter DNA. They used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to edit the yeast genome that simulated DNA damage very similar to that caused by exposure to radiation. This was a small step for man but a giant leap for understanding the mechanics of DNA repair in outer space.
6. Flu Resistant Chickens
Scientists at Imperial College London along with the University of Edinburgh are working on engineering chicken cells that could prevent them from developing flu virus. Birds are one of the most common sources of this deadly disease, and by using CRISPR, scientists were able to delete a part of chickens DNA that prevents the growth of the virus.
This experiment was done on chickens that were grown in laboratory settings, and the next goal is to engineer live chickens with the same genetic modification.
5. The Creation Of Super Cows
Even though this may sound like something more appropriate for a science fiction television show, the researchers from the University of Florida Institute of Food And Agricultural Sciences are actually engineering heat-resistant cows. For those reasons, they are studying the DNA segments of the Brangus cow, a breed that is very successful in regulating its body temperature.
4. Pigs As Organ Donors
According to a new international research initiative, gene editing can also be used to fix the scarcity of transplant organs. Because pigs organs share certain similarities with a human in terms of anatomy, they are considered a desirable source of replacement organs for those in need.
Scientists are now working on replacing the porcine endogenous retroviruses (also known as PERVs), which are found in pigs' DNA. These viruses can present a major threat to humans during organ transplantations, but the advancements in CRISPR technologies are making this less likely to happen.
3. An Experiment That Shocked The World
In the year 2018, the world got it's first gene-edited babies. The purpose of this experiment was to make the babies immune to HIV. They disabled the gene called CCR5, which plays a crucial role in HIV pathogenesis. The gene-edited twins, nicknamed "Lulu" and "Nana," were born healthy, according to the Chinese scientist He Jiankui. However, the "mad genius" and his colleagues were indicted due to many legal and ethical controversies.
2. Mosquitos Without Malaria
Malaria is a dangerous parasitic disease, and mosquitos are one of its main sources of spreading. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University used CRISPR technology to edit the genes of mosquitos so that they become resistant to malaria.
Unfortunately, by deleting some of the genes, it made it harder for these newly engineered mosquitoes to live in the wild and pass on their genes. Nevertheless, the experiment is still being worked on and developed further.
1. Gene Editing As a Way To Cure HIV
This gene-editing experiment was performed on a 27-year-old Chinese man who was both HIV-positive and diagnosed with leukemia. Because of his condition, he was eligible for an experimental CRISPR treatment. It was the first attempt to treat a patient infected with HIV by using cells that had been edited with CRISPR technology.
The doctors gave him a stem cell treatment. After a year and a half, the CRISPR-edited stem cells persisted, but more half of the edited cells died after the transplantation treatment. The cells were not enough to cure HIV, but his cancer went into remission.
What was the purpose of gene-edited babies experiment?
The purpose of this experiment was to make the babies immune to HIV.
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