The GMO experiment has taken many twists and turns over the past few decades, and perhaps none is bigger or more significant than the new CRISPR gene editing technique, which allows even small, independent scientists to “play God” with our food.
The system is used to “precisely” remove or edit genes, and shows promise in the world of medicine and food according to supporters.
But new research is showing that this CRISPR gene editing (GMO) technique may not be as precise as we have been told.
CRISPR Gene Editing Technique May “Cut the Wrong DNA”
Columbia University researchers stunned the CRISPR world back in June 2018 when they discovered that the process may actually cause “hundreds of unpredictable gene mutations” within the cells of an organism, a discovery that flies in the face of the alleged “preciseness” of the technology.
Of course, all technologies have risks, but considering that CRISPR is already being used to create GMO apples, mushrooms, and potatoes that don’t need to be regulated like traditional GMOs (part of an already weak regulatory system), it’s well worth noting that we may have a serious food crisis on our hands if this technology is allowed to spread unregulated and unlabeled as the U.S. government has mostly decided already.
Proponents of CRISPR also say that this technology of gene editing can help solve serious diseases once-and-for-all, but what will the risks and side effects be in the long run?
A new study is showing additional concerns involving the accidental “cutting” of DNA.
The discovery was made by Delft University of Technology scientists, who developed a mathematical model that explained why the Cas9 protein used in simplified gene editing cuts some DNA sequences while leaving others alone, as discussed in this article from Sustainablepulse.com.
The Wrong DNA May Be Accidentally “Cut” By Gene Editing
The new gene editing techniques are said to be simple enough for a wide range of people to use, but the vast array of unforeseen consequences could be anything but.
The CRISPR-Cas9 system of gene editing, analyzed in the study, works like a defense mechanism protecting bacteria from viruses, but if a virus enters a bacteria colony and doesn’t take over the cell, some genetic material is cut from the virus and stored in the genome of the bacterium.
This new viral DNA carries within it a memory of the attacking virus and is stored in order to send out Cas9 proteins to neutralize it and “cut” it, putting an end to the threat.
But in gene editing, it has been shown by the researchers that this protein sometimes cuts DNA sequences that resemble the material it’s looking for on accident. It goes without saying, but this off-target destruction of genetic material within an organism whether plant or animal could potentially have not-so-good consequences.
Protein sometimes cuts DNA sequences that resemble the material it’s looking for but that contains a number of different letters. Destroying other genetic material can have dire consequences, the Pulse article says.
The researchers believe the study will eventually lead to better applications of the technology.
“Sometimes, there is a choice in the exact location to cut when fixing a gene, and our model will help determine which locations are the best to target,”said researcher Martin Depken of Delft University of Technology.
But between this news and the aforementioned study showing “hundreds of unpredictable gene mutations,” it’s fair to wonder whether scientists will ever be able to harness this powerful new plaything without causing serious side effects and the potential for immense harm down the road, especially with how common it could become in our (unlabeled) food supply.
For more information on CRISPR and the research results, check out the full article here.