While CRISPR,  “a technology that research scientists use to selectively modify the DNA of living organisms”, is an incredible advancement for humanity, it is far from perfect. In some treatments, the CRISPR treated cell or packaged CRISPR components are injected into patients with the goal of repairing diseased cells using precise gene edits. Gene therapies utilizing CRISPR have the potential to unintentionally induce “bystander” edits in various regions of the genome, occasionally resulting in the onset of new cancers or other diseases.  The intricacy of bodily tissue contains thousands of different cell types, which causes problems for scientists’ ability to correctly implement CRISPR technology.


Researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed new genetic systems to essentially fact check CRISPR gene edits. A sequence analyzer was made by this research team that is able to track on and off target mutations and the ways the genes are inherited from one generation to the next. Another system made called the Integrated Classifier Pipeline or ICP is able to reveal specific categories of mutations resulting from CRISPR editing. The ICP was developed in flies and mosquitoes, and it produces a “fingerprint” of how genetic materials are inherited. This allows scientists to track mutational edits to its source and risks associated with potentially dangerous CRISPR treatments.

The ICP and sequence analyzer could be the key to understanding how to further propel CRISPR technology and other “cutting-edge next-generation health technologies” to be consistently safe for human use.  According to Bier, a professor in the UC San Diego School of Biological Sciences, the CRISPR editing system can be more than 90% accurate, however, because it encodes ad nauseam its bound to have inconsistencies; The ICP is able to give a “high resolution picture” to describe what is going wrong.

In AP biology we learned about genetics. The bystander effect caused by CRIPSR  reminds me of gene mutations. The bystander effect is when surrounding genetic data of the gene or codons are deleted or rearranged. This is just like ‘normal’ gene mutations caused by errors in gene replication. Insertion, deletion, duplication, inversion, and translocation are all different gene mutations. The mutation’s effects can be silent, with no change to the amino acid; missense, altering one amino acid and potentially changing the protein’s function; or nonsense, causing premature termination of protein translation, resulting in a shorter or typically nonfunctional protein. The CRISPR bystander mutations would theoretically have the same effects as regular gene mutations.

The content that I have learned from AP Biology is setting me up to be able to understand modern complex biology related issues and discoveries that will continue to arise in the future. I wrote about this topic mainly for the bystander effect; I had never heard of the potential for negative side effects as a result of CRISPR treatment, so to learn and write about it was very interesting. Do you think CRISPR is safe to be used at this point? Will the ICP lead to a vast new bio-technology field of medicine? I think that CRISPR could be very useful to cancer patients who are terminally ill or cannot go through other forms of treatment.  The ICP also seems like a promising start to a new age of medicine and science. I  wonder if CRISPR technology could be used for treating plant disease, like the beech leaf disease, killing many trees in New York.

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