If you are reading this right now, it means you are not blind. Aren’t you so fortunate to have healthy vision? Others aren’t as lucky. The genetic disorder of blindness is something that effects many people. However, what if I told you that there may be a way to prevent the passing of a genetic mutation such as blindness? It’s called CRISPR.
Before I get into how CRISPR can help prevent blindness, must know what CRISPR is. CRISPR, short for CRISPR-Cas9, is a tool used for editing genes of organisms by modifying the DNA. By changing the DNA sequence, this causes for a change in gene function. Essentially, CRISPR acts as a scissor that is able to cut and edit the DNA sequence.
The way genes are manipulated is by having the components of one CRISPR sent over to another CRISPR, which then alters the structure of the sequence manually, and is called “gene editing”. This phenomenon was discovered only in 2017 when a University in Japan was able to capture and reveal to the world the exact process of this gene editing. Genes are compromised of chemical bases that bind together to form a sequence and every sequence creates something different. For example the sequence GATC when genetically edited with CRISPR can turn into CATG by just switching the C and G. This may seem small but can have a much larger effect on the organism.
This method can directly be used to alter the genetic mutation that causes blindness in a person by finding the spot in the genetic code in that is the root of the mutation and editing it to become normal. Another new way that CRISPR gene editing can be used is to combat sickle cell disease. This disease that causes the creation of mutated hemoglobin resulting in blood clots can also be fixed. Sickle cell disease effects 100,000 people in the US, and can only currently be treated with bone marrow transplants, but this can lead to other health issues according to Dr. Markus Mapara who studies CRISPR.
Through CRISPR, as found by Dr. Dounda and Dr. Charpentier, they can direct the Cas9 protein part of CRISPR, through a programable RNA, to locate specific areas of genetic code, in particular ones that are the root of a mutation that causes health issues such as Sickle cell disease. As we mentioned before, the CRISPR can then remove and replace the specific area with one that doesn’t result in the genetic mutation.
While there may be other treatments for these diseases, CRISPR is certainly the safer, healthier, and more effective way to combat them. They also haven’t had too much research on it yet, so we are only getting more and more information as time goes on. I personally don’t have any genetic mutations that I know of, but I know many people who do and who this could help. Hopefully we will be able to master the technique and put an end to genetic mutations!