Genome Editing: What Could CRISPR Do Tomorrow?

Original Article on: The Medical Futurist

CRISPR is the newest, most efficient and most accurate method to edit a cell’s genome. We have to understand it and prepare for the medical revolution it brings upon us, so here I summarized everything to know about this genome editing method from DNA-scissors to currently unimaginable possibilities, such as having an army of gene-edited soldiers. Here, let me show you the myriad of wonderful opportunities as well as the frightening ethical challenges what the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method could bring into healthcare in the future.

This is the third part of our article series about the amazing story of CRISPR. In our first article, you could read about the history how CRISPR/CAS9 was discovered and how the process of genome editing works. In the second piece you could familiarize with the CRISPR therapies and solutions available today. Now, let me show you where CRISPR could get us in the future. It is truly mind-blowing.

If such examples as the complete eradication of malaria, the possible end of cancer and the treatment of deadly genetic diseases are the most likely scenarios happening very soon, imagine the scope of results we might get to. Perfect humans? Eternal youth and beauty? Living for hundreds of years?

All of it is possible if we open the door of genome editing. But we have the utmost responsibility not to turn it into Pandora’s Box and let various monsters created through the inobservance of bioethical questions into the world.

1) We start “small”: let’s treat HIV

HIV inserts its DNA into the genome of the host, and while it can lay dormant for years and certain medical treatments can moderate its effects, there is no way to make the virus permanently inactive. In 2015, scientists used CRISPR to cut HIV cells out of living cells of patients in a laboratory – proving that it is possible. This year, they carried out a lab experiment with rats which had HIV in 99 per cent of their cells. By injecting CRISPR into the rats’ tails, they were able to remove 48 per cent of the virus from the DNA of their body cells. Although the experiments are still in their infancy, it seems that CRISPR could mean the ultimate solution to cure HIV and ultimately AIDS.

2) Drugs of the New Age

CRISPR/CAS9 could also mean a revolution for the pharmaceutical industry. New types of drugs may be developed for treating diseases which were previously thought deadly and incurable. Pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG and start-up CRISPR Therapeutics recently announced a $300 million joint venture to develop CRISPR-based drugs to treat heart disease, blood disorders, and blindness. Their cooperation could mean the dawn of a new drug development era focusing more on genetic methods. And who knows? Maybe in a couple of decades, it will be possible to treat cancer or AIDS through a pill or an injection.

3) The Arrival of Superplants

If you think about GMOs and the Flavr Savr Tomato, plants are somehow always in the first row when it comes to genetic modification. It is no different with CRISPR. Researchers are currently experimenting with ways to improve crop disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance using the gene-editing tool. A research team from Rutgers is working on a long-term project to genetically modify wine grapes and turfgrassin such a way that the methods can be implemented in a variety of other crops. Imagine having jasmines blossoming the whole year in Scandinavian countries or harvest pumpkins in February. We have unlimited possibilities…

4) Boosting Human Intelligence? …

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