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  • Leopold Huber

CRISPR



Widespread gene modification might sound far away and almost unachievable, but with a discovery called CRISPR it could be available in only a few decades.

CRISPR (short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a short sequence of DNA which is regularly repeated, with only so-called “spacers” in between. These are short pieces of non-coding DNA. CRISPR is found in all cells.

When a cell gets invaded by a virus and survives, it incorporates some of the virus’ DNA so that when the attacker returns, it can fight back more effectively. Scientists have discovered how to trick this system into merging any foreign DNA with its own by having the cell merge its DNA with any foreign DNA. It allows people to modify genetic code easily and cheaply. It is so simple that you can do it in your own home. Scientists can also use a protein called Cas9 to cut pieces of DNA out of an organism.

CRISPR was first discovered in 1987, but it was only in 2007 that we started learning about its significance. Then, in 2012, the first commercially viable CRISPR technology was unveiled. Since then, the price of genetic editing has plummeted. In a study from 2016, CRISPR managed to wipe 50% of HIV viruses from a group of mice. Human trials were first approved in 2020. CRISPER was also used during the COVID pandemic to test for the coronavirus.

In the future CRISPR will play an even bigger role in medicine. With this technology, humans could eradicate countless diseases and conditions such as cancer, lime disease, HIV, and malaria. It can also be used to eliminate genetic diseases/abnormalities before birth and to improve human abilities such as sight, intelligence, or strength.

Even though CRISPR is still a recent technology, it has a lot of potential to shape humanity’s future.

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