In order to enjoy quality of life at any age, we make it our goal to achieve and maintain good health in many possible ways. But sometimes, even with the best of intentions, our health deteriorates due to sensitivities we carry with us in our genes – hereditary diseases that we cannot control and cannot yet cure. CRISPR Cas9 technology will revolutionize molecular biology and genome editing and will eventually enable us to overcome or even prevent the outbreak of these hereditary diseases.
CRISPR Cas9 is a system whereby genes can be adapted thereby destroying or preventing harmful disabilities or diseases. CRISPR was discovered nearly 30 years ago in bacteria. Scientists realized that these clusters of palindromic repeats were part of the bacteria’s immune system which, together with a certain protein – Cas9 – protected the bacteria against returning viruses by identifying the harmful DNA in the virus and cleaving it from the gene.
The term ‘CRISPR’ stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. This describes the DNA sequence that plays the main part in the immune system of the bacteria. The enzyme Cas9 – CRISPR associated protein – after identifying a harmful virus, is able to cut into the virus’ DNA and disable the harmful genes.
In laboratory conditions in recent years, scientist were able to identify harmful and debilitating genes and, using the CRISPR system, were able to cleave or cut out these genes, therefore enabling the cells to continue to live and replicate in a normal way.
How does CRISPR Cas9 contribute to Life Quality Extension?
CRISPR technology, as we understand it today, may not leave us wrinkle free and with a full head of hair. But what we can hope for, using this genome-editing tool, is life extension with a quality of life gained by reducing, inhibiting or even preventing genetic related diseases.
As we age, the cells in our body become less active, some cease to function at all and some function in a way that is harmful to our health, causing disease and disability. Cells are programmed to repair any damage caused to them, but as the cells age, this ability is reduced or eradicated completely. This is all due to data found in our genes. Each and every one of us has a unique make-up of genes and therefore a unique bank of strengths and weaknesses derived from these genes. In order to achieve life quality extension, these weaknesses need to be identified and treated. This is exactly what the CRISPR Cas9 system has proven can be done.
The damaged or harmful genes in human cells are identified and enzyme Cas9 is programmed with the specific DNA sequence of these harmful genes, enabling it to cleave this exact sequence, leaving the cell free of harmful genes. The disease is eradicated and our quality of life is restored.
This genome-editing technology is only now being tested on humans, giving rise to questions such as, “will we be able to erase hereditary diseases altogether?” and “how will future generations be affected by this genome-editing technology?”
The answers, as yet, are not clear-cut or obvious. Scientists have shown that changes can be made in DNA. In some cases the germ-line will not be affected and this will not affect future generations, and in other case, the aim will be to eradicate genetic-based diseases and disabilities such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and even color blindness.
Striving for greater quality of life for a longer span will reach new heights as technologies such as the CRISPR Cas9 system are further researched.