Nobel Prize Winners
Do you know what made Spiderman ‘Spiderman’? The genetically mutated spider that bit Peter Parker. CRISPR /Cas9 protein is the spider now (not literally);
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 for the discovery of genetic scissors (CRISPR/Cas9). This scissor can be used to modify or alter the DNA of living organisms, plants, animals, micro-organisms, and aliens (research in progress). CRISPR/Cas9 is already showing promising results, it was used to create the world’s first albino lizard. This has the potential to be used to treat genetic disorders, it’s contributing to cancer therapies.
Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry said, “There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionized basic science but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”
This discovery was published in 2011 by Charpentier, she was studying Streptococcus pyogenes — a pathogen for humans (think pharyngitis, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, cellulitis, erysipelas, rheumatic fever) — when she discovered an unknown molecule, tracrDNA. Her work showed that tracrRNA is part of bacteria’s ancient immune system, CRISPR/Cas, that disarms viruses by cleaving their DNA.
Soon, she collaborated with Jennifer Doudna, who is a top-notch biochemist and specializes in RNA. Together, these extra-ordinary scientists successfully recreated the genetic scissors of the bacteria and then reprogrammed it to make it use easily (not for us though).
What happened is after discovering the tracrDNA, they recreated it artificially in a test tube, then scientists realized that it can be reprogrammed to use according to the need. So, the CRISPR/Cas9 scissor can be used to cut DNA at a predetermined site and rewrite the DNA.
Before the discovery of these genetic scissors, there were other methods to do the genetic modification but they used to take a lot more time and were more complicated and prone to mistakes. This, on the other hand, is said to be highly precise and can do the deed in a few weeks.
As the genetic scissors are in use since 2012 (what? I didn’t know), now they are trending because of the Nobel Prize. Their use has exploded and is making a great impact in the field of genetics. Crops that can resist molds, drought, pests, etc have been developed with its help. Don’t forget the albino lizard, they used lizard as the also have melanin like us and it not only provides us the skin color but also helps in eye formation. They are surely up to something awesome.
This is definitely an invention worthy of a Nobel Prize. There’s more to come, so keep checking your news box.