Structural Roles of gRNAs in the CRISPR-Cas9 System
Professor Bae Sang-su (Department of Chemistry)
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Professor Bae Sang-su of Department of Chemistry is an expert in the field of CRISPR-Cas9 system, which recognizes target DNA with the help of two gRNAs (Guide RNA): tracrRNA (trans-activating CRISPR RNA) and crRNA (CRISPR RNA). DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the carrier of genetic information which is the main constituent of chromosomes, and RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a messenger that carries instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of protein. CRISPR-Cas9 stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which relies on the protein named Cas9. Also known by the name of 'molecule scissors' that introduces mutations and changes into DNAs, Bae reveals the mechanism of the CRISPR-Cas9 system through his research paper, "Structural roles of guide RNAs in the nuclease activity of Cas9 endonuclease".
Mechanism of the CRISPR-Cas9 system
All living things are composed of cells and in them exist DNAs. Thus, if the mechanism of DNAs is feasible to be identified in every sequence, modifications or alternations in mutation become possible. Along with the development of artificial intelligence studies, research on the CRISPR-Cas9 system has recently been nominated as the momentous scientific work of the year by Nature Method, the most authoritative magazine in the chemical field. “This paper reveals the mechanism of how the CRISPR-Cas9 system can detect and modify the faulty areas of a given DNA. The process can be described as a surgical operation which should be performed precisely, since the surgeon has to accurately whittle down morbid parts of organs,” said Bae.
Bae also remarked on the importance of research in the single molecule level. According to Bae, in order to utilize and apply the CRISPR-Cas9 system into remedying rare hereditary diseases or creating novel organisms, intricate research and experimentation in the rudimentary levels are crucial. “The process of experimentation took a little more than two years, until this research thesis was produced. I majored in physics, obtained a doctorate degree in chemistry, and this research I am currently working on biology. Convergence in science is needed because the biological application of the research mandates physical methodology and chemical materials,” said Bae. He also accounted for the process minutely that the physical methodology he employed was using razors to inquire into the fundamental states of the CRISPR DNA acting as molecule scissors to amputate the accurate parts of DNA.
Legal regulation demands on research
Although the research of CRISPR DNA embarked in 2013, the three-year study developed rapidly, that the legal regulations regarding the employment of CRISPR technology are not yet procured. “Now is the time to amend the laws considering the development of CRISPR research and bioethics. Regarding the current pace of research, application of the CRISPR DNA would take effect in 10 years, and if properly used, this technology is practicable to save a host of people, and also improve the quality of life,” added Bae.
Referring to Bae, this field of science will change the world, in that the CRISPR molecule scissors can bring out alternations in humans, animals, plants, and even viruses. “The advent of DNA modification in all living things is becoming feasible. In the movie ‘Gattaca,’ the future world discriminates humans born naturally with recessive genes, as the ones with modified genes are considered dominant. As so, concerns regarding negative employments of CRISPR DNA are prevalent, and this adjures the judicial amendments to delicately take account for this technology,” said Bae. There are numerous advantages this technology accompanies: remedying hereditary diseases, protecting endangered animals, and plants, and more. Thus, in order to properly apply the technology to real life, the government should arrange for regulations rightfully, unlike the employment of nuclear power that entailed tragic courses.
Despite the short time span of research, in the course of three years, the South Korean research team is in the lead in CRISPR experiments and applications, along with the top five groups of the world, including Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley and more. “The ultimate goal of my research team is to create ingenious and distinctive technology that is distinguished from other countries’ research teams,” said Bae. According to him, the South Korean research team is ahead of others in areas of CRISPR DNA investigation and application. In 2017, rice rectified through CRISPR modification will be made public, along with CRISPR DNA-rectified pigs. This will incite further developments in remedying diseases like cancer and other incurable diseases.
In order to increase the spectrum of research applications, the South Korean government and experts from the fields of law and science are gathering to amend laws. There are advancements in the judicial and scientific joint consultations that will be initiated on December 21st, 2016, by the Korean Genome Editing Society.
Kim Ju-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Moon Ha-na
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