Palindromes & nucleotides (or how to edit genes with the syntax of life)

art-of-the-cell-crispr-cas9-in-complex-with-guide-rna-and-target-dna
The CRISPR/Cas system (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a prokaryotic immune system that confers resistance to foreign genetic elements such as those present within plasmids and phages, and provides a form of acquired immunity. [Image via. Text via]
We’ve discussed the chemical nature of life; which is all about molecules capable of forming an increasingly complex–and almost infinite–set of bio-machines. In other words, the stuff of life is all about the right chemistry–for example, polymers that can store and manage information.
All life on Earth can do this, thanks to nucleic acids. The following 16 minute film shows what these molecules have been doing for millions of years, in order to defend bacteria from their oldest foe–which is ours as well–the virus. Scientists have harnessed this bio-molecular immune system, and used it to edit, remix, and shuffle our own nucleic acids.
Keep in mind that many things about this video will become clearer during the 2nd semester of AP Bio. Nevertheless, I highly recommend watching the film with everything we have said about bio-molecules–especially nucleic acids & polypeptides–in mind:
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24 thoughts on “Palindromes & nucleotides (or how to edit genes with the syntax of life)

  1. It really is amazing how all of these processes happen so many times a day and inside something so small! The ability that CAS9 has to cut out the virus DNA if it matches the sample in its “archives” as a method of self-protection for the bacterium is astonishing. It also serves as an example of how complex things we can’t see are.

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  2. It is truely astonishing how in this short video one can understand the complexity of life inside humans genetic information. It is very interesting the potential CRISPR has to change humanity. The way it is able to cut the HIV virus in humans and reduce the amount of it is incredible, thus shows the complex things scientists encounter as time progresses. This revelations might or will further help in the modification of genetic codes and help cure diseases, such as cancer and HIV among others, with the help of emerging technology.

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  3. Genes never cease to amaze me! How can something so small have such a big impact on an organism, how can something be so accurate and precise and at the same time so random? Its amazing how CRISPR now is like comparing beepers to the smartphone, right now CRISPR is the most advanced technology but probably in a few years something else will surpass it. But i think that the advances that humanity is achieving must be made with logic and reasoning like stated in the video. If technology evolves too fast and people abuse it the consequences will be bad. Human culture must evolve before technology does to avoid the negative abuse of technology. In conclusion, we should all know a little about the future of genes and CRISPR because i believe in the near future many of the sci-fi things mentioned in the video could be true.

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  4. Good afternoon, seeing this post brings a lot of things to my mind. While my biology class is just talking about mutations and changes in genes, it is amazing to see all the possibilities that CRISPR could bring to the scientific world. Nevertheless, it is also a tremendously dangerous weapon. We, in my class, have talked about how most cancer cells have recently been discovered to have a mutation or some change in the genes coding for telomerase. This mutation causes telomerase to reactivate itself thus adding telomeres, a crucial factor in the impediment of the cell’s entrance into G0 (end of division), which allows the cell to keep dividing. CRISPR could certainly be used to fix this error in the DNA, possibly stopping one of the biggest factors that makes cancer divide uncontrollably. Although little is known about telomerase and its whys, fixing this error in cancer could be a priority in most labs. Here in my university CRISPR is being studied in numerous labs. Attached is a link of CRISPR in Emory’s labs.
    http://www.emoryhealthsciblog.com/crispr-way-edit-dna/

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  5. Good afternoon, seeing this post brings a lot of things to my mind. While my biology class is just talking about mutations and changes in genes, it is amazing to see all the possibilities that CRISPR could bring to the scientific world. Nevertheless, it is also a tremendously dangerous weapon. We, in my class, have talked about how most cancer cells have recently been discovered to have a mutation or some change in the genes coding for telomerase. This mutation causes telomerase to reactivate itself thus adding telomeres, a crucial factor in the impediment of the cell’s entrance into G0 (end of division), which allows the cell to keep dividing. CRISPR could certainly be used to fix this error in the DNA possibly stopping one of the biggest factors that makes cancer divide uncontrollably. Although little is known about telomerase and its whys, fixing this error in cancer could be a priority in most lab. Here in my university CRISPR is being studied in numerous labs. Attached is a link of the CRISPR in Emory’s labs.
    http://www.emoryhealthsciblog.com/crispr-way-edit-dna/

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    • If CRSPR/Cas9 technology is developed cautiously, we can expect great things in the field of biotechnology during the next few decades. Certainly, if this technology is used without ethical considerations, we could be seeing events that were only part of dystopic science fiction. Let’s hope for the best.

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  6. In my opinion, genetic engineering is a huge biological advance that is extremely impressive and will be useful to humanity in a near future, but throughout my research on the topic, I noticed that it is a really controversial issue. “The question is, is it morally acceptable to intervene in the nature of human beings on this level?” A concern of the scientific community regarding genetic engineering is that in the future, possibly, the human population may become eugenic. Scientists working on this field have developed a set of guidelines and standards needed for this process, as mentioned in http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=05182015.

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  7. Genetic engineering is very impressive. It shows that each day scientists are more and more familiarized with what they are studying and the processes of life. The fact that in a nearby future scientists could genetically alter and prevent diseases such as cancer and alzheimer is certainly positive news. I found this link of researchers cautiously optimistic about a brain-clearing drug to treat alzheimer: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/09/results-of-small-alzheimers-drug-study-tantalizing-but-no-breakthrough-yet/
    Although genetic engineering is great it is also scary. Imaging having perfect humans or never aging! Wouldn’t that affect the natural balance of the world? I know scientists are cautious and that bioethics is in charge of such controversial topics however, in my opinion, genetic engineering should be used to prevent or fight diseases but not to preselect the qualities and traits a human being should posses.

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  8. Genetic engineering is truly amazing. It is remarkable the things that can be achieved with this new technology, such as curing diseases or creating “perfect humans”, but just because we have this technology doesn’t necessarily mean we should use it. Although genetic engineering would be great to get rid of horrible diseases, such as alzheimer, there could be serious consequences in the alteration of our genes that we are not aware of, as mentioned in this article: http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/comment/genetically-engineering-humans-a-step-too-far/20069421.article
    The possibility of creating a “perfect human” is also very scary because if that technology falls into the hands of the wrong person it could be very dangerous.

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  9. CRISPR is a truly amazing piece of technology. The idea that one day we wouldn’t have to worry about such horrible diseases like cancer, herpes, alhzeimers, Down syndrome, and many more seems like a dream, or something out of a movie, but now there is an actual possibility of that being our future. But even though it seems perfect, it doesn’t mean we should do it. This type of technology is, at the moment, too unpredictable, and that isone of the reasons that people are so against it, and there is also that fact that this technology in the wrong hands could be catastrophic for the whole world. In my opinion, this kind of technology needs to be tested more, before scientists start to consider using it, and even then, it should only be used for medical purposes.
    http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=8500
    This article written by Jamie Metzl mentions some good examples of how genetic engineering could affect us in different aspects of society on a global scale.

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  10. Genetic editing is a great discovery, it could eradicate diseases, children without illness, increase life expectancy, and many more, nevertheless nothing is perfect as it seem, everything has its downside. Since we don’t really know a lot about this topic, we should research more before experimenting on animal. As the video stated “once the door is open, we cannot close it” by declaring this it means that if something went wrong or the gene modified caused other mutations, those mutations could be even worse than before and even create new species.
    Now there is something that scares me, which is modifying your offspring. Everyone that could have this opportunity will obviously want what is best: intelligence, strong, healthy, etc. Isn’t nature amazing with its randomness and diversity? This amazingness will no longer be because everyone will be the same and the world will very monotonous.
    I agree that it should be used for illnesses and diseases, but not for modifying your kid. Imagine every citizen as skillful as the one at your side. Wouldn’t this be boring? Also, this could bring an end for natural selection, survival of the fittest, hence, to evolution. Whether we notice it or not every organism is currently undergoing these processes. We should be very careful with gene editing and crispr technology as we don’t really know their negative effects.

    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/
    http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-gene-editing-is-just-the-beginning-1.19510

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  11. Genetic engineering is an amazing advance towards the cuing of life-threatening diseases, allowing them to be stopped before they can even harm an organism. Diseases that today are considered incurable can be treated in embryos and prevent an offspring from inheriting a disease that could kill him. This is under development of course, but that should not stop us from supporting the project and making further research to make it more reliable. If this project is handled meticulously and manage by the right people, we can look forward to a future where AIDS, Alzheimer, and down syndrome are things of the past. I found this article below that shows in further detail other applications of genetic engineering:

    http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/advancements-in-genetic-engineering.php

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  12. Genetic engineering will certainly change our perspective on technology. It is astonishing to think in just a few years, scientists could find cures for diseases with the help of 21-century technology. This scientific breakthrough can also serve other purposes, such as reversing blindness, slowing aging, and cloning. Moroever, thus article that was uploaded yesterday depicts how genetic engineering improves photosynthetic efficiency.
    https://www.google.com/amp/www.the-scientist.com/%3Farticles.amp/articleNo/47544/title/Genetic-Modification-Improves-Photosynthetic-Efficiency/

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  13. Like the name of the video states genetic engineering will change everything forever, this statement is totally true since scientists could do whatever with the control of the DNA molecule. With further development of this discovery scientists could cure diseases, create perfect humans, among other very interesting things. The problem is that with this they control practically every living organism and they could use it for the benefit of human beings but some people could take advantage and use it all the way around. It will be disastrous if this falls in the wrong hands and I expect that not to occur.
    Here is information about genetic engineering risks and impacts:
    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/risks-of-genetic-engineering.html#.WC-geqIrJfI

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  14. It is impressive how much genetic engeneering has developed through time. At first they manipulated the organisms with radiation but now they can literally take the genes and manipulate them. The progress genetic engerneering is quite impactful to our life, from glow in the dark fish to a child with three biological parents. This video mentions the use of CRISPR, this is something that can and will change the world completely. The powerful tool that is CRISPR may cure different types of diseases like cancer and gene related diseases, make the “edditing” of babies easier, and even provide people a longer life. To be able to manipulate genes and organisms with this, is amazing, but there is also a thin line between what is right and what is wrong and it may become or already has become a contreversial thing. There are multiple things genetic engeneering may improve on but it also could go all wrong in the wrong hands.

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  15. CRISPR will certainly be one of the most important pieces of scientific information for all humanity. This discovery must be considered revolutionary for modern science since it gives us the power to manipulate living beings which include: improving organ systems, preventing deadly diseases, and the potential to live longer. After being presented such an ideal problem-solving agent, why would humanity accept the birth of offspring with conditions and diseases that can easily be reversed? Additionally, CRISPR can be manipulated in plants too, creating fruits and vegetables with longer self-lives that may even be more healthy since farmers wouldn’t have to add artificial pesticides. Of course, there are obvious cons such as taking this manipulation to the next level and creating “perfect human beings” in a psychological and physical sense, thus creating robot-like creatures. However, there is a whole other spectrum of cons which contrast with the previous statement; it may lead to genetic defects not known to humanity or even limit genetic diversity. This is a discovery that must be handled and researched carefully so that humans can have the best possible outcome in this constant war between viruses and healthy cells.

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  16. It is amazing how science, knowledge and technology can create a new world. If CRISPR is used well we can forget about diseases, and live a healthy life. In my opinion, it should have some restrictions in terms of not playing responsible with it. Technology is taking over normality, and as scary as it sounds inventions in this decade will be facts from the other. Humans are getting to the point where we are recreating ourselves, and we should follow the path of evolution in a new way. I agree to the fact that we should’s get stuck in the past, but again scientists should give a thought in giving this discovery full hands on and to whom.

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  17. Pingback: Gattaca & Bioethics | The Hypertextual Lounge

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