Thanks to CRISPR-Cas9, genetic engineering is on the cusp of transformational change. Created by co-inventor Jennifer Doudna, a molecular biologist at the University of California-Berkeley, CRISPR-Cas9 is a genome-editing tool that came to the forefront in 2012. It allows scientists to alter the DNA of different organisms with high speed and precision (until just recently, engineering genes was a time-consuming and laborious procedure that often ended in failure).
Below are some of the ways that CRISPR will likely impact the world:
Livestock – To grow larger stock for the country’s commercial meat and wool industries, CRISPR/Cas9 has been utilized in China to delete genes in livestock that inhibit muscle and hair growth. In the future, this could become a common way to expand livestock industries.
Agricultural crops – CRISPR is helping researchers discover new ways to improve crop disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance in plants. This could result in new crops to help feed the global population if becomes successful.
Develop new cancer treatments – The technology can modify immune cells to make them more effective at targeting and destroying cancer cells as well as evaluate how genes can be studied to determine their sensitivity to new anti-cancer drugs. This will help to develop a personalized treatment plan with the best possibility of success.
Reduce our need for plastic – CRISPR can be used to make environment-friendly plastic by manipulating a type of yeast that transforms sugars into hydrocarbons. This will reduce the need to rely on petroleum-based resources for plastics, easing stress on the environment.