Just in case you haven’t heard, there is a relatively new Genome editing technology called CIRPSR CAS9. This technology has been making news around the world for several years now. CRISPR(short for crispr cas9), is a biological mechanism found in bacteria used to essentially repair DNA that has been edited by phages (bacterial virus’s). It is believed that because cells all evolved from one lineage CRISPR works on nearly any kind of cell including human cells. When Scientists discovered this,a new industry of affordable gene manipulation technology emerged. CRISPR is so affordable that anyone with a few hundred dollars can purchase the equipment required to apply CRISPR edits to cells.
While CRISPR is an amazing technology that has already been used to save lives and allow hobbyist biohackers to make glow in the dark beer; it is not perfect. Recent studies have shown that CRISPR is liable to damage the HP-53 gene in human cells which is responsible for initiating a cells auto-destruct mechanism in the event it is to become cancerous. CRISPR is likened to a pair of scissors, but the new technology so far dubbed “prime-editing”, is allegedly like a word processor capable of replacing vast amounts of DNA with excellent precision. Some call it the next step towards a holy grail of DNA editing.
We will not know more until more is published, but hopefully some of the pitfalls of CRISPR can be bypassed with this technology. For example, it is very difficult to edit human immune cells with CRISPR. This makes it hard to eliminate HIV from the human genome without performing complete procedures to modify stem cells via bone marrow transplant. While these methods have cured a very small handful of people, they are not quite deemed safe or reproducible at scale.
Regardless we are very excited about this technology and we will stay tuned with any prime-editing updates from scientific community. To read more check out this article from the Harvard Crimson https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2019/10/25/mit-harvard-new-gene-technology/