Genome Editing is now at its Prime — New Prime Editing Technology

There is a new genome editing technology that allows us to search, and replace genetic codes in DNA strands, ultimately curing genetic conditions/diseases and saving lives. This technology is called prime editing but before we talk about this, we need some background knowledge that will serve to to help us understand this technology.

The human blueprint (DNA)

Have you ever wondered, why and how we have the same eye colour as our parents, or why we have curly or straight hair? This is because of the genes in our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). What is DNA? DNA is a long molecule that contains unique genetic code found in all living cells. This molecule that looks like a spiral ladder is called a double helix, and it contains all the information that is needed for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all living things. Our DNA holds the instructions for making all the proteins necessary for our body. Our DNA instruct amino acids how to combine and what shape to make, so they meet their desired purpose in our body. If these amino acids are not in the right shape, their function will not work. A single strand of DNA is made of four different kinds of chemicals that are read as letters.

  • guanine (G)
  • cytosine (C)
  • thymine (T)

CRISPR

Now, that we know what DNA is and how it works, scientists have found a way to edit certain genomes in the DNA which don’t benefit the human. The CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology is a tool used to change the DNA sequences and modify gene function. The discovery of the CRISPR technology came about by seeing how bacterial cells naturally eliminate viruses from their cells when infected by them. A Bacterium sends out a protein called Cas9 (capable of cutting DNA strands in a specific way) to eliminate the virus from their cells. This naturally occurring defence mechanism allowed scientists to identify the unique function of the Cas9 protein, and hence discovered the CRISPR technology to modify genome. Components of the CRISPR technology include:

  1. Cas9 (protein that’s going to do the cutting)
  • May fix a mistake (error in gene) or insert a new gene (an extremely difficult process)

Prime Editing

What is it?

  • Reverse transcriptase which read the RNA, uses the RNA as a template and creates DNA which is complementary to the RNA strand.
  • The PEG RNA (Prime Editing Guide RNA) acts as a navigator, navigating the complex (a group of two or more polypeptide chains) to the target DNA in the genome. It is different from other guide RNAs because it attaches to both sides of the DNA for more stability.
  • the RNA sequence which codes for the new edit (acts as the editing region)

What does the future hold for Prime Editing?

So, we know that prime editing is really important, but what does it hold for the future? For starters, many people wouldn’t have to worry about genetic diseases because of this technology. However, even though this helps replace bad genes inside our DNA, we can also use this to enhance the human body. I feel that in the future we will be able to design the way we look, our eye colour, how tall we are, and even toughen our bones. I strongly feel that with this technology, we can change the world for the better.

A 15-year-old passionate kid whose one goal is wanting to impact the world | AI Enthusiast | Innovator @The Knowledge Society