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Posts Tagged ‘crispr’

The CRISPR-CAS-9 gene editing technique is one of the most revolutionary technologies out there.  We already knew about its potential to cure diseases but as time goes on more and more uses are being discovered for it.  Such as its ability to also genetically modify food crops.  And now it’s ability to be used as a diagnostic tool.

As The Verge puts it, “A new biotech company co-founded by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna [Mammoth Biosciences] is developing a device that uses CRISPR to detect all kinds of diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and Zika. The tech is still just in prototype phase, but research in the field is showing promising results. These CRISPR-based diagnostic tools have the potential to revolutionize how we test for diseases in the hospital, or even at home.”

But, wait.  There’s more!

“The same technology could be used in agriculture, to determine what’s making animals sick or what sorts of microbes are found in soil, or even in the oil and gas industry, to detect corrosive microbes in pipelines…”

Proving that once again, CRISPR is full of surprises.

So how exactly dose this amazing new technology work?

According to Futurism:

“ The user first places a sample on the kit’s credit-card-sized piece of paper. This sample could be urine, blood, or saliva (which one will likely depend on what is needed for the particular test). Then, a CRISPR protein and its RNA guide search that sample for specific sequences of DNA or RNA. These sequences could be indicative for diseases such as malaria and Zika; a single test could look for multiple diseases.

If one of those sequences turns up, the CRISPR system snips it. It also snips what Mammoth calls a ‘reporter molecule,’ which produces a color that’s visible to the naked eye. Take a photo of your piece of paper, and the smartphone app will tell you what CRISPR turned up in your sample.”

It really is that easy.  Perhaps eventually we’d even get to the point where we don’t have to go to the doctor at all.  CRISPR to the rescue once again.

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Is an at-home CRISPR kit the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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People who are familiar with the CRISPR-CAS-9 gene editing technique are aware of its truly transformative ability to change the world.  Capable of ending hunger and curing all diseases (including cancer and AIDS) it has a chance to be the most important scientific discovery of all-time.  In fact, as scientists and researchers continue to play around with this nascent technology it’s becoming clear that we have barely just scratched the surface of what it can do.  As witnessed by its newfound ability to act as an antibiotic.

A few years ago, when researchers from my alma mater Northeastern University discovered a new antibiotic in soil, it was the first new antibiotic discovered in more than thirty years.  This was a historically important discovery that is likely to be downright pivotal in our on-going fight against drug resistant super bugs. That’s because super bugs have evolved to fight and even become resistant to most antibiotics thanks to our misguided insistence that we should wipe out all of our gut bacteria in one fell swoop every time we are sick.  As it turns out though not all gut bacteria is bad.  Some of it lives symbiotically with us and plays a vital role in maintaining our health.  Using an antibiotic as a proverbial sledgehammer to destroy everything in its path is counterproductive.  The correct approach is a targeted one that would eliminate only the bad bacteria.  Thanks to CRISPR-CAS-9 that may now be on the verge of happening.

As Futurism explains, it may soon be possible to provide patients with a CRISPR pill that could target specific bacterium such as Clostridium difficile which can kill 15,000 people per year:

“Jan-Peter van Pijkeren, a food scientist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is creating a probiotic cocktail that patients can swallow as a liquid or pill.  The cocktail of bacteria will include a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria – capable of carrying a customized, false, CRISPR message to C. difficile. This message would cause C. difficile to make lethal cuts to its own DNA.”

Instructing bacterium to kill themselves on purpose?  That’s straight up savagery.  And it could very well be the future of medicine.  A future in which we deliver drugs to specific parts of our body using gene editing techniques as part of complex personalized healthcare plans that our doctors specifically design for us.  With this approach you won’t need a sledgehammer to get the desired results.  Just a pair of scissors.

Considering the already limitless potential of the CRISPR-CAS-9 gene editing technique it’s somewhat surprising to find yet another novel use for it.  Which begs the question: what else can it be used for?!?!

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Is a CRISPR pill the Greatest Idea Ever?

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