The field of molecular biology overlaps with biology and chemistry and in particular, genetics and biochemistry. A key area of molecular biology concerns understanding how various cellular systems interact in terms of the way DNA, RNA and protein synthesis function. Molecular biology is experiencing a transformative phase with genome engineering in animals and plants using CRISPR-Cas9.
CRISPR- Cas 9 is a genome editing tool that has the unique technology to edit genes by altering, removing and adding sections of the DNA sequence. It is a simple, precise and cost effective method of genetic editing that analyses gene functions in mammalian cells, studies genomic rearrangements and the progression of cancers or other diseases, and potentially corrects genetic mutations responsible for inherited disorders.
CRISPR contains two key molecules that alter the DNA sequence: Enzyme Cas9 and gRNA
How does CRISPR work?
The Enzyme Cas9 which has the unique property of precisely cutting strands of DNA. g RNA known as “guide RNA” is designed in a way it finds and binds to a specific sequence in the DNA. The gRNA has bases that bind to the target DNA sequence and no other region. Cas9 follows the guide RNA to the exact location in the DNA sequence and recognizes the damaged gene and enables repair.
CRISPR can be used to cut genes and also enable repair enzymes to substitute the desired genes
The CRISPR-Cas9 system is a kind of natural immune system that exists in bacteria. Whenever a virus invades, the system can edit foreign genomes to protect the immune functions of bacterial cells. Based on CRISPR-Cas9’s powerful genome editing capabilities, researchers have transformed the bacteria’s natural immune system into a gene editing tool that can be widely used in the laboratory. CRISPR-Cas9 is the third generation of gene editing tools following ZFN and TALEN.
CRISPR technology is rapidly evolving, and its scope is constantly expanding. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops.
CRISPR technology is being used in
- Genetic engineering
- Cell signaling
- Gene drive
- Lineage reconstruction
- DNA genotyping
It has also been used in the translational research of human diseases such as cancer immunotherapy, antiviral therapy, bacteriophage therapy, cancer diagnosis, pathogen screening, microbiota remodelling, stem-cell reprogramming, immunogenomic engineering, vaccine development, and antibody production.