CRISPR is an adaptive immune system used to change a DNA sequence by making it longer, shorter or altering a part of it. This genome editing tool enables accurate modifications to be made in genes.
Already in the 1980’s scientists discovered a pattern in bacteria that was identified as the DNA sequences of viruses that attack that bacteria. This pattern was called “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” – CRISPR – because it appears in clusters. The structure is such that is identical backwards and forwards (palindromic) and it repeats itself many times. This DNA sequence was discovered to be part of the bacteria’s immune system, protecting it from repeated attacks from certain viruses. Together with the enzyme Cas9, an immune system was discovered, that could be utilized as a technology and be adapted to different situations and for various conditions. This technology, first identified by Francisco Mojica at the University of Alicante, Spain, in 1993, is more accurate and easier to use than earlier technologies used until then for genome editing.
The enzyme Cas9, a ‘CRISPR associated protein’, produced by the CRISPR system, is used to cleave or sever parts of DNA sequences that are identified as harmful or destructive. Cas9 can be programmed to identify and cleave specific genes, protecting the cells from many different viruses or harmful sequences simultaneously. This tool can, therefore, be adjusted to the specific needs of certain diseases or conditions.
Cas9 attaches itself to the severed gene. Scientists can then extract the harmful gene and study its function and structure.
The CRISPR system allows changes to be made to the DNA sequence so that it can recognize and overcome viruses that attack organs or cells. It can also be used to change mutations and structures that occur due to genetic diseases.
A Genome Editing Tool
The discovery of this precise technology opens up a new world of possibilities as far as preventing serious illnesses and recovering from incurable diseases. In many cases, scientists have been able to identify the damaged gene responsible for a specific illness or disability, but until now have not been able to isolate it and change or extract it without huge collateral damage.
Cas9 can be programmed to identify and cleave a specific, chosen part of a DNA sequence. This adaptive immune system can be used to treat and prevent a wide range of diseases and conditions, such as HIV infection, and genetic related diseases such as cystic fibrosis and even high cholesterol.
The implications of utilizing the CRISPR Cas9 system will eventually change the way we regard illness and disability of any kind as there will be a very good chance that with this genome editing tool, our genes will be treated in such way that our health will improve and so will our quality of life.
In regard to life quality extension, this technology will have a huge impact. As we age, our cells, and in effect our bodies become prone to age-related diseases in accordance with our specific genes. With the CRISPR technology, we may have a chance to reverse or eradicate these sensitivities, therefore improving our quality of life along with life extension.