Lesser known facts about CRISPR


CRISPR by far is the most efficient and accurate method of genome editing. The technique is based upon the use of sgRNA to guide the Cas9 nuclease to cleave the target DNA at desired sites. The discovery of CRISPR technology and the successful attempt of editing eukaryotic cell genome has revolutionised the landscape of genome editing and CRISPR is one of the most commonly used genome editing technology in research and clinical purposes.

CRISPR has an immense prospect in biotechnology and molecular biology and has garnered significant public attention since the attempt to genetically edit babies by Dr. He Jiankui was first reported. Nonetheless, there are some amazing, yet less common facts that are known about CRISPR technology.

1) Using CRISPR technology, scientists have successfully eliminated HIV from living organisms and across three different animal models.

2) CRISPR can successfully treat childhood blindness, also known as Leber congenital amaurosis that is estimated to affect 2-3 babies per 100,000 newborns.

3) CRISPR technology can be used to successfully target tumours in mice (containing human prostate and liver cancer cells) by creating a cancer-annihilating gene that causes tumours to shrink. 

4) CRISPR gene editing technology can slow the rate of cancer cell growth by targeting Tudor-SN proteins that play a key role in cell division. This would provide a time window for therapeutic interventions.

5) Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a rare heart disease that affects 1 out of 500 individuals. CRISPR technology has been successfully used in the U.S. to remove the MYBPC3 gene from a single-celled embryo that is linked to HCM.

6) Regulations on human germ cell editing vary considerably across the globe. While Australia, the U.K., 15 of the 22 Western European nations including Germany prohibit human germline editing through appropriate legislation, countries such as the U.S. do not have explicit laws that prohibit such studies. However, the use of USFDA funds for such studies is strictly banned. In other countries such as Japan, China, and India, only unenforceable guidelines exist that ban human germline editing, while countries such as Russia have ambiguous rules.

7) CRISPR technology can eradicate mosquito-borne diseases completely by tweaking their fertility genes.

8) CRISPR technology can be used to genetically modify bacteriophage viruses to kill antibiotic-resistant pathogenic bacteria.

9) Dystrophin gene is one of the longest genes in our body and a mutation in the gene can lead to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a critically debilitating disease. CRISPR technology, specifically CRISPR/Cpf1 has been successfully used to rectify the mutation in the dystrophin gene in vitro and in mice.

10) Companies and organisations such as Google, DuPont, and Gates Foundation are extremely interested in using CRISPR/Cas technology for crop engineering.