Genome-editing technique known as CRISPR started in 2007 when a yogurt company suddenly realized that bacteria within its yogurt developed unknown defense mechanism to ward off viruses. It evolved into a significant project among scientific circles in 2012, and by 2013 it has expanded into a global initiative that was attracting both acclaim and condemnation.
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Now, the gene-editing technology has grown into a project every scientist has heard about and which revolutionize medical practice in decades to come; but before that, the technology has won Science’s 2015 Breakthrough of the Year recognition.
CRISPR featured in Science’s Breakthrough mentions in 2012 and 2013, but then it only went as far up as runner-up together with other gene-editing methods. But this year, it has come from the rear to take its true position as a formidable project that must be given the recognition it deserves given certain related developments that have occurred in recent times.
For instance, it just came to the fore that CRISPR could be used to eliminate crop pests and the diseases they carry; even though the technology has also been experimentally applied to editing of DNA of human embryos. The idea behind the human DNA editing is that CRISPR could be used to edit out diseases from human genes at the embryonic stage, and to infuse enhancements that would change the development of generations into one that is disease-free and having certain desired characteristics.
It must however be pointed out that CRISPR has competitors, and these come in forms of designer proteins known as zinc finger nucleases, and TALEN – a DNA-sequencing alteration technology that could be applied to therapeutic purposes.
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The only thing is that generating CRISPR procedures is fairly simple and inexpensive, with the leader of the zinc finger nucleases, Dana Carroll of University of Utah in Salt Lake City noting that CRISPR has brought about a “democratization of gene targeting.” While George Church of Harvard University added that “any molecular biology lab that wants to do CRISPR can” do it – in fact, Church’s lab demonstrated the ability to edit human cells among other eukaryotic ones as well.