How CRISPR Gene Editing Will Help Conserve Our Environment
Gene editing might not conjure up images of environmental conservation but the two are inextricably linked. CRISPR genome modification is allowing researchers to delve into other sciences besides medicine and the technology’s potential for environmental good is exciting.
CRISPR’s Complex Set of Tools
The CRISPR technique allows scientists to essentially do a cut and paste on certain genes in an organism’s DNA. This is not the extent of CRISPR’s capabilities, however. In fact, scientists can use this method to alter a number of genes at the same time and they can even make genetic edits without cutting into DNA strands.
Say that a geneticist finds a particularly beneficial gene in a microorganism or plant cell. It is possible to send additional proteins or enzymes to that gene in order to fortify it even more. Now, experts can make significant modifications to genes or create new ones entirely and the positive effects of this can help out our environment.
One area in which CRISPR technology is seeing potential is in biofuels. Researchers have discovered that there are some types of bacteria that can work in plant cells to break down the structure and convert the cell walls into biofuels. Other bacteria can create biofuel matter from the prerequisite materials of waste products.
Thanks to the precision and efficiency of CRISPR technology, it is plausible that scientists can modify and generate organisms that can produce biofuel precursors and alternate fuel sources. This could have a big impact on how humans generate power across the world.
In addition, there are certain species of algae and cyanobacteria that can convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into alternative fuel sources. CRISPR researchers are definitely looking into the potential here and they have been able to carry out experiments centered around cyanobacteria, algae, and biofuel.
An Alternative to Plastic
There is no doubt that plastic is a bane to the planet but it is such a readily available material that it is hard for most people to eliminate it from their everyday lives. CRISPR technology could pose a solution by working in certain strains of bacteria and yeast, which naturally produce plastic-like compounds.
By combining and editing these types of bacteria with the use of lentiviral vectors from the CRISPR/Cas9 system, scientists may be able to speed up the conversion process and enable other microorganisms to produce the compounds as well.
Fighting Greenhouse Gases
Another environmental concern is greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The gene editing process of CRISPR may be able to curb this problem. The way it would work is that scientists would alter the genes in cows or the grass they graze on so that there is less methane production as a result.
Another possibility is genetically engineered rice. For some context, when rice plains get flooded, this can produce certain yeast bacteria that are responsible for releasing methane into the atmosphere.
A solution could be genetically altering the rice so that it produces fewer bacteria, resulting in less methane released. These are just two examples but there are plenty of other ways in which CRISPR could curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Other ways that this gene editing technology could work include modifying or creating new plants or microorganisms that can serve as efficient and environmentally friendly pesticides or insecticides.
On the flip side, CRISPR could help scientists come up with crops that are resistant to specific viruses, which would eliminate the need for strong pesticides and insecticides.
It’s clear that there are many different routes that CRISPR scientists can take and their continued experimentation and research will only yield more astounding results and potential solutions. Given the plan