The RNA sequences (crRNAs) that are able

The
use of technology in genetics has a great impact on our lives in how scientists
are able to alter the genome of living cells. One of the most well known of
these technologies is CRISPR, particularly CRISPR-Cas9. CRISPR-Cas9 is the most recent breakthrough in
the genome editing technology today.
CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and
was created by co-inventor Jennifer Doudna. This technology has raised ethical
questions, especially in regards to editing the human genome. CRISPR can be
programed to target specific areas of the genetic code and precisely edit DNA.

         CRISPRs are a part of the bacteria and
archaea immune system that protects them against viruses. These organisms use
“CRISPR-derived RNA and various Cas proteins,” such as Cas9, to protect
themselves against foreign invaders (Broad
Institute,
2017). The Cas9 protein is an endonuclease that uses gRNA to form DNA base
pairs with the targeted segment of DNA. CRISPRs contain spacer sequences that
are transcribed into short RNA sequences (crRNAs) that are able to guide the
system to matching sequences in DNA. Once the target DNA is found, the enzyme,
Cas9, binds to the DNA and cleaves it. This binding and cleaving shuts off the
gene that is being targeted. The new DNA template is then introduced that
repairs the cut an alters the gene.

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        In vitro and animal models of human
disease have been used to demonstrate that the technology is a huge
breakthrough in modern biotechnology.  Although this technology is extremely useful
in editing the genomes or organisms, ethical issues have been raised on its use
on people. Some see the utilization of CRISPR-Cas9 as “playing God.” Despite
the ethical debates, CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to modify germlines, such as
correcting “cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, or muscular dystrophy” (Genetic Editing Is like Playing God – and
What’s Wrong with That?, 2016). Although CRISPR can be utilized to modify
genes that could potentially benefit the life of an individual, it can also be
utilized to modify embryos with specific traits, such as “eye color or
athleticism” (If It Works, CRISPR Gene Editing Will Change Our Lives, 2015). Another
potential use is the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to create “gene drives” in animals (What is CRISPR?, 2017). These increase
the chance of passing on a particular trait from parent offspring. Eventually,
the particular trait can spread through entire populations of a period of
multiple generations. For example, gene drives could potentially control the spread
of malaria by “enhancing the sterility among the disease vector” (What is CRISPR?, 2017). This could be
used to control the population of invasive species as well.

          CRISPR-Cas9 has also ben used in
agriculture to modify its genome. CRISPR can be utilized to biotic and abiotic
stress. Biotic stress tolerance includes induced tolerance to viral, fungal,
and bacterial diseases. Abiotic stress tolerance, the two main ones are to
achieve herbicide and natural environment stress tolerances. The use of CRISPR
allows farmers to create a higher crop yield, and in turn, a higher profit. There
has been a lot of debate in regards to GMOs and agriculture. Some argue that
there are dangers with utilizing genetically modified organisms. These such
concerns are associated with CRISPR are correlated with unknown allergic
reactions people could have as well as the unknown long-term effects.

         Overall, the use of CRISPR-Cas9 has
the potential to change our lives from the food we eat, to the modification of
genes that cause disease. The modification of genes, such as CRISPR-Cas9
carries out, has the ability to change how we treat various diseases, and even
prevent them from occurring.