Scientists develop off-switch to control CRISPR gene editing tool

CRISPR is a powerful gene-editing tool and could find wide application in punching out disease precipitating genes from human cells. It was first employed in Lung Cancer patients. Lung cancer is a rapidly proliferating cancer with very poor prognosis.

CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindrome Repeats. It was first discovered in bacteria where it acted as a sort of immune system and protects the bacteria from attacks by viruses and plasmid DNA. CRISPR helped in the development of an RNA-guided genome editing tool which is incredibly simple and also quick to use.

However, it is a double edged sword and can have potential to cause harm also. It could be used regularly in humans but is a new form of treatment and we are still not aware of the long-term side effects. It also has a potential for misuse. Now scientists have perfected a switch which can halt CRISPR in its tracks.

The fear of misuse of CRISPR is increasing and the process is so powerful and incredibly simple that it can be misused in the most basic laboratory conditions. One of the drawbacks of the process is that it just like the fission reaction in an atomic bomb cannot be controlled once it is initiated. Genetic changes once done cannot be easily reversed and even if some undesirable effects are seen it is impossible to correct the error.

The inhibitor will enable the technology to be used in a number of ways to help humankind. The new switch is not able to reverse the side effects of any genetic changes but it will halt the system from making any further changes. This will help to make the genetic edits in a time bound and piece by piece manner and every effect caused by the editing can be easily monitored and controlled.


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