World CRISPR Day celebrates transformative technology’s impact

October 20 is World CRISPR Day, commemorating the day CRISPR was first used to edit a human genome, marking a new era in history.

Short for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,” CRISPR is described as “a family of DNA sequences – derived from viral DNA and used by the organism to defend itself against viral infections – found in the genomes of prokaryotic organisms such as bacteria and archaea.”

To put it in simple terms, CRISPR is basically a gene-editing technology that finds specific bits of DNA inside a cell and, once the bits are identified, alters a piece of it or turns genes on or off.

According to Nobel Laureate and CRISPR pioneer Dr. Jennifer Doudna, CRISPR is “a precision tool that speeds up the pace” of gene editing by allowing researchers to make small, precise edits to the genome and gives us a “tool for understanding the genes.”

A decade of CRISPR accomplishments

We see new advances in CRISPR’s potential practically every day since its deployment in the field of gene editing for the last decade –since Doudna and her colleagues George Church, Emmanuelle Charpentier, and Feng Zhang discovered CRISPR-Cas9, a genome-editing tool that has been called “the greatest scientific breakthrough of the year 2015.”

Dr. Doudna and her colleague Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2020 for their breakthrough discovery.

The application of CRISPR is very broad and could change the way the world sees microbiology, but the technology is also becoming critical in addressing the impact of climate change on food security.

From drought-resistant wheat to cancer treatments

By enabling faster crossbreeding of plants and animals, CRISPR is leading to incredible breakthroughs in health care, agriculture, and food security. A few developments Bio.News covered over the past year include:

In medicine, CRISPR can be used as a rapid diagnostic tool to detect diseases by looking for specific changes in a person’s DNA and identifying genetic conditions before symptoms appear. It can also be used in treating diseases by correcting faulty genes or destroying harmful viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

CRISPR could also “treat or frankly even cure some of the most challenging diseases we face,” Dr. Doudna said during the 2020 BIO Digital – including lung and pancreatic cancer, hereditary high cholesterol, and sickle cell disease, to name just a few.

Most recently, Italian researchers “have used CRISPR-Cas9 to delete the IL30 gene that promotes prostate cancer (PC) onset and development,” per CRISPR Medicine News.

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