CRISPR: learning from bacteria

Genome editing by engineered Cas9 systems. Credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

In the last three years bio-technologists made a leap forward in their capability to alter a DNA strand. This is important if you want to change/add some "instructinos" to the code of life. We have now gained significant knowledge on the relation between some diseases and alteration in the DNA. If we were able to "repair" the DNA we would cure the disease.

Bio-engineering is now almost 50 years old but most of the progress in acting on the DNA, versus observing and understanding the DNA have occurred in the last decade or so.

Few years ago scientists discovered that bacteria can change their DNA to protect themselves from viruses and poisonous substances. It is a bit like being able to code a new medicine inside your production engine.  More recently we have learned that our brain does something similar, although for different goal: neurones can change their DNA to become more proficient in a specific activity.

The discovery of the mechanisms through which bacteria can change their DNA is now becoming a tool for bio- engineer to change the DNA.

A very interesting article is now available explaining the mechanisms and its application.

CRISPR stands for Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeat, and it correspond to areas in a bacteria genome that contain the "instruction" used by the bacteria to change its own genome. Now these instructions have been borrowed by researchers that are using them to delete, insert strand of DNA in a cell.

According to the researchers this tool is going to change medicine and our view of what we mean by cure in the coming decade.

Interesting to see how much Nature has been able to invent in billion years of evolution and how handy it is to apply what Nature has created...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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