During the last year the technique CRISPR / Cas9 It has given a lot to talk about and, from what you can see, 2016 will be even more prolific when it comes to it. And is not for less.
The range of possibilities it offers us is immense; well, in fact, as early as 2015 I helped cope with diseases like hemophilia. This has led to passes like United Kingdom to legalize the use of this form of genetic editing in embryos, to improve the results in the cycles of assisted reproduction.
As if that were not enough, recently, a group of researchers from United Kingdomhas published in Nature a study on the use of this technique in the edition of the genetic material of the AIDS virusfrom the cells of our immune system.
What is the CRISPR / Cas9 technique?
As I was saying, this technique has been in the spotlight of scientists for a long time.
The bacterial process on which it is based was discovered in the decade of the 80sbut it wasn't until 2012 when they came up with the way to apply it to research to cut and replace DNA at will.
If you remember the biology classes of the institute, broadly speaking, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the genetic material which contains the instructions necessary for the proper development of an organism. This will be achieved from protein synthesisspecialized in carrying out the different functions of the body, but the cellular organs that synthesize the proteins, called ribosomescannot directly read the DNA information, but instead use the RNA (ribonucleic acid).
So from DNA, they form complementary RNA sequences that will carry this information to the ribosomes. Why am I telling you all this? Basically so that you understand that DNA and RNA can have complementary sequences that stick together, something very important in the process of genetic edition that we are going to talk about.
To carry out this process, first of all, you must know the DNA sequence to be removed. Once this sequence is known, a fragment of Complementary RNA, which will stick to it when you find it in the cell. This fragment of RNA is bound to Cas9, a protein that cut the DNA as if it were scissors; so, after the union, cut the DNA to be removed.
At this point, the generated gap can be filled with a new DNA fragment.
How can CRISPR / Cas9 help to eliminate HIV?
When a virus enters the body, it takes advantage of the machinery of the cells to introduce its own genetic material into them. In the case of HIV, the T lymphocytes, which are part of the system immunological, and from there they spread throughout the rest of the body.
Thanks to CRISPR / Cas9, these scientists from the Temple University They managed to eliminate the DNA from the AIDS virus in T lymphocytes grown in the laboratory, but things did not stop there; well, when they put him in contact with HIV again, they found that they had protected against reinfection, thanks to the insertion of mutations that inactivated viral replication.
Although much remains to be done until this process can be used as a treatment, the results are very encouraging. It is incredible what can be achieved thanks to the genetic engineer.