Scientist identified an inhibitor protein that can turn off the CAS9 activity, which can be used to regulate the CRISPR editing from running out of control.
CRISPR – Tomorrows technology
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) might be often called as tomorrow’s technology, it is indeed true in each word. If you don’t understand anything, let us speak the layman way. Imagine a Nano machine that can run through our genetic information and repair those faulty codes? That’s what the whole technology is. Though the idea was simple, the tools weren’t discovered properly until a couple of years back. CAS9 will be that Nano machine which does the hard job, whereas a small guiding sequence will position the CAS9 over the right place.
This mechanism is used by 40 % of bacteria and 90% of archaea. It is more like an acquired immune defense system in prokaryotes, which they use when foreign DNA is incorporated into their genome. But the more developed version has application in human lives, which could change it forever. But we only managed to find the machinery, not its switch. Uncontrolled gene editing might be one frightful result if something goes wrong, but thanks to molecular biochemist Erik Sontheimer and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts. They found an inhibitory molecule that can alter the activity of CAS9 protein and deactivate it.
A molecular switch made it easy!
The research team isolated three variants of inhibitor proteins from the bacteria Neisseria meningitides which also causes a type of meningitis in humans. These proteins are able to shut down the CAS9 activity, such that it can be disabled for a specific period of time or permanently. Previously other improvements are made on the field, back in 2013 a Canadian scientists came up with anti-CRISPR protein isolated from a bacteria which uses a more manageable enzyme for DNA cutting other than CAS9.
Some studies also showed the CAS9 can be deactivated when exposed to a particular wavelength of light, but the application is practically non-feasible. Using other molecular binders to interrupt CAS9 is also under research, but scientists require something that is handy but at the same time practically superior and it is when the N.meningitidis inhibitor made its entry.
Future of CRISPR-CAS9
The next phase of human survival is through biological upper-handing, and CRISPR-CAS9 technology is lock and key for the process. Many scientists were uncertain about the CAS9 inside human genome due to its potential to go out of control if a misstep happens. Their also an evolutionary advantage for this inhibitor protein as they have emerged first in viruses (called as phages) that attack bacteria. But later bacteria incorporated the same on their genome to resist re-attack. With enough water in hand, now we are ready to play with fire- The fire of future!