Genome editing is making changes to the DNA of an organism in a precise and efficient manner. DNA sequences are cut with the use of enzymes called engineered nucleases. In genome editing, you can, remove, or edit a DNA. This will result in changes in the characteristics of an organism.
Uses of genome editing
Genome editing is used to edit any genome of an organism but it is prohibited in human embryos that are beyond 14 days.
There are many uses of genome editing such as for research wherein the DNA in calls are studied in order to know their biology and how the work. Gene editing can also be used to treat diseases such as leukemia, AIDS, and other genetic conditions.
In biotechnoglogy, genome editing is used in modifying crops in order to be resistant to disease and increase the yield.
Genome editing systems
There are different types of genome editing system. They are all programmed to cut the DNA and differ in how they recognize the DNA to be cut.
This is the cheapest and most common system that is used for gene editing. CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. CRISPR is the DNA targeting part while Cas9 is the part that cuts the DNA.
ZFN means zinc-finger nucleases. The DNA binding part is made of zinc finger proteins and the cutting part is a FokI nuclease. To make a cut in the DNA, there must be two FokI molecules that come together.
This is another genome editing system that stands for Transcription activator-like effector nucleases. The DNA-binding domain is made of transcription activator-like effector domains. The nuclease part of TALENs is like the ZFNs FokI nuclease.
Different applications of gene editing
CRISPR has been popular in the past couple of years due to the different possibilities that goes beyond human health.
Food allergies affect a lot of people. Sometimes, this can be deadly. By using CRISPR, it can be possible to make milk, eggs, and peanuts that are safe for everyone and will not trigger an allergic reaction. According to Tim Doran, a researcher in Australia's CSIRO, there are four proteins in egg white that can cause allergy. By rewriting those regions of the gene that can cause allergic reactions, others can now eat the foods that they previously can't.
Decaf coffee beans
A UK company called Tropic Biosciences has created a gene edited variety of coffee beans that are naturally decaffeinated. By using CRISPR, the company was able to turn off the genes that produce caffeine.
The decaf variety of coffee beans can have a significant impact on the flavor, nutrition, as well as the cost of the decaf coffee.
CEO Gilad Gershon said, “If you grow the beans without the caffeine or with a lower amount of caffeine to begin with, then you can achieve an end product that is a lot closer in taste to normal coffee, and you can maintain a larger content of the very healthy compounds that are naturally found in coffee.”
Naturally spicy tomatoes
Scientists in Brazil and Ireland are making use of the gene editing tool to create a naturally spicy tomato. It would seem that the tomato has the gene to produce capsaicin, the compound that makes chilly pepper spicy. With a few tweaks from CRISPR, they were able to make the tomatoes spicy.
Pet owners are always on the lookout and are taking advantages of the latest tech that can benefit their furry friends. Genetic testing services that check the health and breeds of dogs and cats have seen a spike in the past years. CRISPR will soon follow.
The gene editing tool has proposed to remove the genetic diseases that can be found among pure breed dogs. An example is the Dalmatians that carry a genetic mutation that makes them prone to develop bladder stones. A dog breeder in US has a plan on how to fix Dalmatians but it has to be reviewed by the FDA.
CRISPR has also been involved in the creation of miniature pigs and koi carps and the size, colors, and patterns can be customized.
Gene editing can help in the production of biofuels by algae. By using CRISPR-Cas9, Synthetic Genomics was able to create strains of algae that produce twice as much fat that can produce biodiesel. The scientists were able to remove the genes that limit the production of fats.
The algae did not produce enough levels of fats to make the biofuel viable. By modifying the genes, the efficiency of CO2 conversion into biofuel is higher. Synthetic Genomics is not working with the oil company ExxonMobil to meet the target production of 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel by 2025.
Gene editing technology has a lot to offer. However, the public must be well-informed since this is going to be a subject for much debate.