Prime Editing: The Future of Gene Editing?

What is CRISPR and Gene Editing?

Before we explain Prime editing (and how it could potentially unlock a new door for our species), you should first understand what CRISPR and gene editing are and how they work. Every living organism consists of cells, and these cells are the building blocks of all living things. In fact, there are an estimated 30 TRILLION cells in your body right now, all of them multiplying and working very hard to keep you alive.

Figure 1: A plant cell under a microscope.
Figure 2: The instructions for life, DNA.
Figure 3: How BT Crops work.

How does CRISPR work?

Figure 4: CRISPR uses Guide RNA (essentially DNA cut in half) and scans the gene’s DNA for a match. When one is found, it uses enzymes at the ends to cut off the DNA.

The Problem With CRISPR

Of course, for every yang, there is a yin. While CRISPR is insanely effective, there is one MAJOR problem with it that can potentially shut down human applications of CRISPR. Sometimes, the CRISPR protein makes double-strand breaks within DNA, which have recently been discovered to be extremely dangerous to the cell that the break occurs in.

Figure 5: The negative effects of Double Strand Breaks (DSBs).
Figure 6: Single Strand Breaks (SSBs) are safer than DSBs, but aren’t as effective.

Prime Editing

If CRISPR was like a map, Prime editing would be like a GPS: A “2.0” version of CRISPR.

Figure 7: A basic diagram showing how Prime editing works.
Figure 9: Gene editing is widely used in crops for a variety of reasons, ranging from increasing shelf life to generating pesticides.

The Future of Prime Editing

So far, we know that while Prime editing is an amazing tool, it can also still have negative impacts. What does the future hold for our new gene editing scissors?

Figure 10: How a potential gene therapy might function.

Conclusion

Gene editing is, at its core, an insanely complex topic, and we have only scratched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to it. There’s still so much that we don’t know about editing genes, but we’re also working on finding out new and safer ways to edit them into organisms. Whether Prime editing is successful is still up for debate, but what we can be certain of is that humans will eventually find a way to achieve the impossible. Just over a century ago, we thought that aircrafts were impossible and that humans could never fly. In today’s age, flying has become one of the most popular ways to travel and transport goods. What we think is impossible today, may just become our reality in the future, and it could just be a matter of time before genetic engineering becomes a part of our daily lives.

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Aditya Dewan

Aditya Dewan

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Building companies. Machine Learning Specialist @Actionable.co. Philosophy x Tech.