Few weeks back we wrote an article - "Don't get Fooled by All the Advice you get". In that article we had talked about how we should always remain in touch with the latest in science and technology. Why? Because as we discussed, the world is changing fast around us and there comes a time when it becomes so complicated that we do not understand what's going on at all. And that makes us obsolete. We don't want to be obsolete. Right?
Also of course, knowing about these things gives us an opportunity to think about the kind of future that we want to have. Which area interests me? What change I can bring to the world? What could be my contribution to this dynamic world of science and technology.
In today's blog I want to discuss one such opportunity with you. This could be your shot at choosing to do something that will sooner or later change the world. It's called CRISPR.
What is CRISPR?
CRISPR stands for "Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats". But don't focus too much on the full form. It is what we call a "jumla" in India. But CRISPR is something amazing and is ready to change the world like what the invention of computers did but maybe even bigger. CRISPR is a technology humans have recently learnt from the lives of "viruses" and "bacterias".
Now I know you are all tired from the studies all week so I don't want to discuss too much science details about it so I will use analogies to explain for easier understanding. So here it goes -
Bacteria and Viruses have been fighting like Tom & Jerry since the beginning of cell life billions of years ago. Bacteria is like Jerry (the mouse) and Viruses are like Tom (the cat). Tom keeps attacking Jerry to kill it all the time. But Jerry (the Bacteria) learnt a smart way to save himself. Jerry found Tom's diary. Diary is actually the RNA or DNA of the virus. Jerry started copying down the tricks that Tom had noted down in the diary, in his own little Jerry diary. After noting every trick, Jerry left one line in the diary and then noted the next trick neatly. This way every time Tom used a new trick, Jerry knew how to save himself. This blank line that Jerry left after every trick was very important because it made it easy to quickly neatly find the tricks. This blank line after every trick is what is CRISPR. A repeated palindrome sequence in the DNA which separates the history of the viruses that attack the bacteria in its life. And CRISPR allows the editing of the diary easily so that it does not damage any other part of the diary. It simply adds or changes old information but accurately.
So the point is bacteria learnt this smart way of saving itself from viruses and Human researches who were watching these bacteria and viruses fight under the microscope realised that they could use this same technique to edit the DNA diary of any other animal or plant on this planet. Even human beings.
Why it's exciting news for you?
Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuel Charpentier are two female scientists who won the Noble Prize in 2020 for this discovery. Two women who dazzled the world with their discovery and became an icon for women across the globe. Both of them are now inspiring millions of girls across the planet to take up the field of biotechnology and contribute to this exciting field.
In fact Jennifer says that her life changed in childhood at 13 years age when she read a single book called "The Double Helix" by Watson & Crick who discovered the structure of the DNA. Another exciting thing is that they have simplified the technology so much that it has been made as simple as simple chemistry experiments you all do in your school labs. Just mix some chemicals, heat up the mixture and wait for the DNA to get edited. And what can we do with the technology? A lot actually -
A. And this technology has now created huge potential to permanently solve diseases like -
Say Tachs disease
Sickle Cell Anemia
B. In future we could edit human DNA to create enhanced features in humans like
Increase muscle power like Hulk
Resistance to all viral and bacterial diseases
Nuclear Radiation resistence
and so many other unimaginable things which are just seen in Sci-Fi movies
C. Google Calico and Alto Labs by Jeff Bezos are using the technology to create immortality or at least anti-aging technology.
Using gene editing by CRISPR they are trying to make our aging stop and maybe make us immortal. And it looks silly and dreamy but it isn't. They are already pouring millions of dollars in researching this technology.
This creates a huge opportunity for students today to participate in this exciting science and technology area and make wonderful contributions to humanity. A few institutes in India are also now working with this technology and more and more institutes are adopting it to compete on the global platform. If you are interested here is a link of great places where you could see yourself in future -
Tata Medical and Diagnostics Ltd., Mumbai
CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi
Major scientists, companies and governments in the world already know that CRISPR is the technology which will revolutionise the biotechnology area like computers and artificial intelligence. Only difference is that this revolution will be much more massive and ground breaking than anything that a computer can do.
So if you are one of those students who is ready to take up an exciting challenge and create a journey in the field of science and technology - Engineering or Medical - this is the field that will create opportunities for you to capture the world's imagination by doing things which were always thought to be impossible. No more it is impossible.
And if you are a girl, you should know that with inspirations like Jennifer and Emmanuel it is clear that you have the opportunity to take the world by the storm. Women are taking charge.
If you liked today's article then please like, share and subscribe the blog for more byte sized knowledge and become smarter every week. Comment your thoughts and ideas below. In the bonus video, Jennifer Doudna, the Nobel Prize winner talks about CRISPR.